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IBlesseo ITbomas riDorc 




BR 350 .M67 B74 1891 
Bridgett, T. E. 1829-1899 
Life and writings of Sir 
Thomas More 


From Hofbeins sketch made iJi Hit 
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MAR 22 19: 



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In More's dedicatory letter to Thomas Ruthal of his 
translation into Latin of three of Lucian's dialogues, 
he complained that writers of the lives of saints some- 
times indulge in falsehoods: " They have scarcely left 
a life of martyr or of virgin without foisting into it some- 
thing untrue — piously, no doubt ! for of course there 
was a danger lest truth, left to itself, should not be able 
to stand upright : so that it was necessary to prop it up 
with lies!"* 

I may say that my first anxiety in composing this 
Life of the illustrious writer, chancellor and martyr, has 
been not to merit this reproach ; to state nothing that 
I did not believe, and to accept nothing for which I had 
not historical evidence. My first care was to collate the 
biographies of More already in existence. 

In giving some account of the principal of these, I 
shall be able at the same time to state the sources from 
which a correct and complete life of More can be drawn. 

* Itaque nuUam fere martyris, nullam virginis vitam pra;termiserunt, 
in quam non aliquidhujusmodi mendaciorum inseruerint; pie scilicet, alio- 
quin periculum erat ne Veritas non posset sibi ipsa sufficere, nisi fulciretur 
mendaciis. This epistle is ascribed to Erasmus in the Leyden edition of 
his works; but wrongly. It is More's, and bears his name both in the 
original edition and in his collected works. 


My own conclusion was, that such a Life still remained 
to be written ; and I have made a serious attempt to 
supply the want. My readers and critics must judge 
how far I have succeeded. 

1. Erasmus. In the letters of Erasmus there are 
descriptions of More so minute and full, thou^s^h written 
during his lifetime, that Erasmus may almost be called 
his first biographer. There is also a large correspon- 
dence between the two friends. This source had already 
been well used by Stapleton ; but I have taken nothing 
at second-hand. It will be seen that the writings of 
Erasmus have supplied me with some of my best 

2. Roper. More's son-in-law, William Roper, resided 
with him for sixteen years. In the time of Queen Mary 
he wrote down his reminiscences, as well as details 
learnt from his wife, Margaret More. These remini- 
scences were not intended as a complete Life. They 
were notes supplied to Dr. Nicholas Harpsfield, Arch- 
deacon of Canterbur}-, by whom they were worked up 
into a Life to be mentioned immediately. Roper, writ- 
ing from memory twenty years after the death of More, 
makes a few mistakes in dates, but his narrative bears 
intrinsic evidence of the simple uprightness of the 
narrator and of his substantial accuracy, which is con- 
firmed by historical documents. This Life, or rather 
these notes, were in circulation in MS. and were used 
by compilers of lives long before they were printed. 
They were first printed in Paris in 1626 ; then by 

* I have used throughout the Leyden edition of Erasmus. 


Hearne in 1716 ; and by Lewis in 1729, 1731, 1765, 
who added a valuable appendix of documents. The 
best edition is that of Singer in 1817, of which only 150 
copies were printed. Roper's Life of More is also an- 
nexed to Mr. Lumley's edition of the Utopia. 

3. Harpsfield. a Life of More was composed by 
Nicholas Harpsfield, Archdeacon of Canterbury, in the 
time of Queen Mary. In his dedication of it to William 
Roper, he says that he has used the materials supplied 
to him by Roper, but has been able to add somethin^^ of 
his own. I have carefulh' collated the two, and I find 
that Harpsfield is far more diffuse than his original, but 
without much gain to the narrative. What he has 
added to the history is derived principalh' from the 
writings of More. This Life has not been printed. 
Several MS. copies exist.* I have used a careful 
transcript from Harpsfield's MS. in the British Museum, 
Harl. 6253, lent to me by the Rev. John Morris, S.J., 

4. George Lilly, son of W^illiam Lilly, More's 
fellow-student, wrote some " Elogia virorum aliquot qui 
nostrosaeculo eruditione et doctrinaclari,memorabilesque 
fuerunt ". These were Colet, (William) Lilly, Grocyn, 
Linacre, Lupset, Pace, Fisher, More, and (William) 
Latimer. He gives about two pages to each, rather ol 
general eulogy than facts. There is nothing of value 
for the Life of More. 

* The copy in the Bodleian was seized by Topclif, the informer and 
priest-catcher, on 13th April, 1582, among the books of Thomas More, 
the martyr's grandson (Bodley Rawlinson's letters, 23). There is a 
copy, in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and two at Lambeth. 


5. Maurice Chauncy's Historia aliquot nostri scecxdi 
martyrum (1550). This also is merely a short sketch. 

6. Lodiocius Pacseus, a Spanish Dominican (ap- 
parently of English origin), a learned and eloquent 
man, took much pains in gathering materials for a 
Life of More. Death cut short the work (Stapleton). 

7. Rastell's Life of More. William Rastell, the 
son of John Rastell and Elizabeth, sister of Sir Thomas 
More, was born in London in 1508. He first followed 
his father's business as printer, and then studied the 
law at Lincoln's Inn. In the time of Edward VI. he 
went into exile, but returning in the reign of Mary, 
became serjeant-at-law and judge. He collected and 
edited the English works of his uncle and also wrote 
his Life, as Sander informs us. The latter fact has 
been denied by Burnet, but it does not rest merely on 
the assertion of Sander, though that would be sufficient 
evidence. In vol. 152 of the Arundel Collection in the 
British Museum are some " Notes from Rastell's Life 
of More,'' and in the same volume a fragment of a large 
work that had been divided into books and chapters. 
This fragment bears no title or name of au-thor, but the 
careful reader will find that the " Notes " are taken 
from it, thus showing that it is a part of Rastell's Life 
of More. The extracts, however, only regard Fisher, 
having been copied for the description of the bishop's 
martyrdom, of which Rastell was an eye-witness. 
Unfortunately the rest of this work is not known to 
exist, nor do any of the writers of More's life appear to 
have used it. In the time of Elizabeth, Rastell again 
went into exile at Louvain. He died in 1565. As he 


had married Winifred, daughter of John Clements and 
Margaret Gigs, More's adopted child, he had every 
means of obtaining authentic information. It is there- 
fore greatly to be hoped that this Life may be yet found 
in some continental library. 

8. Stapleton's Tres Thom.e. By far the best 
Life of More is that of Thomas Stapleton, published at 
Douai in 1588. Stapleton was born in Sussex, in July, 
1535, the year and month of the martyrdom of Blessed 
Thomas More. He was educated at Winchester and 
New College, Oxford, and was prebendary of Chichester 
in the reign of Mary. He left England at the accession 
of Elizabeth, and lived forty-two years in exile. He was 
regius professor of Holy Scripture in the University of 
Louvain and canon of St. Peter's in that city. No name 
probably stands higher than his as a controversialist. 
His book, Trcs Thonice, contains the lives of St. Thomas 
the Apostle, of St. Thomas of Canterbury, and of 
Thomas More. In his introduction he tells us that he 
had the help derived from long intimacy with Dr. John 
Clements, More's favourite scholar, and his wife, 
Margaret Gigs ; as also with John Harris, More's 
secretary, and Dorothy Colly, his wife, who had been 
servant to Margaret Roper and had helped to bury Sir 
Thomas ; w^ith John Haywood, the epigrammatist, who 
was very intimate with William Rastell. During 
several years Stapleton gathered from all these their 
reminiscences and anecdotes, and committed them to 
paper at the time, with a view of one da\- writing a Life. 
This, happily, he lived to accomplish. He also studied 
carefully the Latin and English writings of More, and 


the letters of Erasmus and other learned contemporaries. 
Living in exile, he had, of course, no help from English 
documents, but his friends and fellow-exiles, especially 
John Harris, at the death of More had secured some of 
his unpublished MSS., the knowledge of which we owe 
to Stapleton. It is certain, also, that he had a copy of 
William Ropers notes. 

Stapleton's Life of More has been frequently printed 
in Latin ; it has been translated into French. I am 
not aware of any English translation. 

9. In the Lambeth Library, together with a copy of 
Harpsfield, there is a MS. Life of More (in the same 
vol., 179), which has been printed by Dr. Wordsworth in 
his Ecclesiastical Biography (vol. ii.). An introductory 
letter bears the date 1599. The Preface is signed " Ro- 
Ba ". The author was a Catholic, and the Life is made 
up from the Lives by Roper, Harpsfield, and especially 
from Stapleton. The compiler does not seem to have 
added anything from other sources. 

10. Cresacre More's Life. Between 1615-1620 
another English Life of More was composed. It was 
printed in 1627, and bore the initials '' M. T. M." The 
editor, M. C. M. E., attributes it to Thomas More, a 
priest, and great-grandson of Sir Thomas. Yet there was 
abundant internal evidence that it was written bv a 
layman. Hence the editor of the second edition of 
1726 attributed it to Thomas More, Esquire. A third 
edition appeared in 1828, with a Preface by the Rev. 
Joseph Hunter, E.S.A., clearing up the matter and 
assigning the work to its real author, Cresacre More, of 
More Place, Co. Herts, and Barnborough, in Yorkshire, 


Esquire. This gentleman was the great-grandson of 
Sir Thomas, and the youngest of thirteen children ; 
but the inheritance had devolved on him by the death of 
his elder brothers or by their entering religious orders. 

This Life of Sir Thomas is much esteemed and often 
quoted ; but after collating it carefully with Stapleton, 
Roper and Harpsfield, I find that it contains very 
little original matter. I have preferred, therefore, to 
quote directly from the sources from which Cresacre 
More drew. 

II. Varia. Of other Lives I need not say much. 
The Mirror of Virtne (1626), The History of the Life 
and Death of More, by J. H. (John Hoddesden), 
are mere abridgments of Stapleton. Memoirs and 
Lives, by Dr. Warner, Dibdin, Miss Taylor, and 
articles in Cyclopaedias do not profess to do more 
than select and rearrange. The two volumes of the 
Memoir of Sir T. More, by Sir A. Cayley (1808), are 
principally taken up with an account of some of his 
writings, particularly his poems, and contain some 
interesting poetical translations by Archdeacon Wrang- 
ham. A book called Philomorus, of which the second 
edition appeared in 1878, is almost exclusively given 
to More's epigrams, as they illustrate his life and 
character. In 1807 appeared Lives of British Statesmen, 
by John Macdiarmid. These are More, Cecil, Went- 
worth, and Hyde. The Right Hon. Sir James Mackin- 
tosh supplied a very interesting sketch of More's life 
to the Cabinet Cyclopedia ; this was printed separately 
in 1844. Mr. Foss, in his Lives of the Judges, and Lord 
Campbell, in his Lives of the Chancellors, have con- 


sidered Sir Thomas principall}' as a lawyer. Among 
Catholics, the Rev. W. J. Walter produced a good Life 
in two small volumes, for Dolman's Catholic Library 
(2nd ed., 1840), and the accomplished authoress oi Chris- 
tian Schools and Scholars gave us a charming sketch in 
her Three Chancellors, Wykeham, Waynfleet, and More 
(Burns & Gates). Miss Stewart's Life of More is trivial 
and inaccurate. 

12. Seebohm's Oxford Reformers, of which the 3rd 
edition appeared in 1887. By " Oxford Reformers" Mr. 
Seebohm means, not reformers of Oxford, but three Oxford 
scholars, Colet, More, and Erasmus, who were working 
together at a deep reformation of the Church when 
Luther's reformation came to hinder or divert their 
work. I ha\e read this work more than once on 
account of the praise given to it, and I have taken 
great pains to weigh and verify its statements. In 
the course of the following Life I am obliged to contest 
many of Mr. Seebohm's conclusions. I will mereh' say 
here that I consider the whole book to be fantastic and 
misleading, built up from conjectures and misunder- 
standings, and by false deductions. As the story 
breaks off with Dean Colet's death in 15 19, More's 
part is quite secondary as well as fragmentary. Mr. 
Seebohm has given great care to questions of date, 
especialh' as regards the earl}' life and correspondence 
of Erasmus. 

13. More's Own Works have been my principal study. 
Of these I shall give an account in the proper place. 
There will be grounds for reproach to the Catholics of 
England if, in the course of a few }cars, there is not a 


complete and careful edition of all his works, both in 
Latin and English. With the exception of the Dialogue 
of Comfort in Tribulation, reprinted by Dolman, and the 
translations of the Utopia and the History of Richard 
III., More's English writings are almost inac- 
cessible.* Even in the British Museum there is but 
one copy of the great black letter collection by William 
Rastell of 1456 pages in double column. I gratefully 
acknowledge the loan of a copy of this rare book from 
C. T. Gatty, Esq., F.S.A., which has much facilitated 
my labours. I have used the Francfort edition of 
More's Latin works of i68g. There are some opus- 
cida and many letters not contained in any (so-called) 
Opera Omnia, I trust none of these has escaped my 

Here let me say that were I writing the Life of one 
whose works might be supposed to be in the hands of 
my readers, or easily accessible to them, I should not 
feel myself justified in quoting as I have done. I have 
translated long passages from More's Latin works and 
transcribed pages from his English writings, as freeh* as 
if I were printing from unique MSS. in my own posses- 
sion. For the same reason I have generally given his 
letters and those addressed to him in full, instead of 
incorporating the substance in my own narrative. My 
readers will have to take nothing from me on trust. 
They will have the very text of my " evidences " on 
every point. I am aware that this method interferes 

* More's translation of the Life of Pico delta Miraiidiila has been re- 
edited since the above was written (see infra, p. 78). 


somewhat with the easy flow of the narrative, and per- 
haps doubles its length. The compensating advantages 
are that the reader can form his own judgment, and has 
only to rely on the biographer for the accuracy and the 
completeness of the record. He gains also some know- 
ledge of More as a writer. 

One singular result is inevitable from this method of 
presenting my materials. More wrote both in Latin 
and in English. The English in the early part of the 
sixteenth century has become antiquated, and thus pre- 
sents a great contrast with the translations from Latin 
into modern English. More will, therefore, be found 
speaking, as it were, two languages, or two very different 
dialects of the same language — that of the first years of 
the sixteenth century, and that of the last years of the 

If this is anomalous, it may serve to bring home to us 
an important fact. What we call the quaint words and 
turns of old English make us regard the writers or 
speakers of that language as themselves quaint, strange, 
uncouth, rude, simple, or in some wa}- unlike men and 
women of the same class of society, the same talents 
and education at the present day. But if they wrote in 
Latin, the delusion — for such it is — is dissipated. Latin 
is to us what it was to them. It has not become anti- 
quated or changed its form. \\t find that they wrote 
just as we should write, if we were as well versed in the 
language as they were. They thought just as we think. 
We turn their words into our modern English, and all 
quamtncss has disappeared. There is nothing odd or 
unusual in their way of reasoning or in their modes of 


feeling. As soon as they speak our own language in 
our own form or dialect, we judge of them for good or 
evil as we judge of our contemporaries ; and we cease to 
patronise them, as if they were only clever boys or pro- 
mising savages. 

I have modernised the spelling, but I have been 
scrupulous not to alter a word in making extracts. My 
reason is that More was very precise in his choice of 
words and in their arrangement, whereas I can discover 
no rule in the spelling. Besides this, the spelling is not 
that of the author, but of the printer. By a comparison 
between the first and second editions of More's English 
works, it is clear that the type-setter w^as free to vary the 
spelling according to the exigence of the line, adding 
a final e or doubling a consonant where the modern 
type-setter would use a space. The following passage, 
amusing in itself, will explain what I mean by More's 
choice of exact words : — 

No AND Nay. 

" I woulde not here note, by the way, that Tyndal here 
translateth ' no ' for ' nay,' for it is but a trifle and mis- 
taking of the Englishe worde : saving that ye shoulde 
see that he whych in two so plain Englishe wordes, 
and so common as is naye and no, can not tell when he 
should take the tone and when the tother, is not, for 
translating into Englishe, a man very mete. 

" For the use of those two wordes in answerring to a 
question is this : Naye * answereth the question framed 

* Rastell has here put no, b}- an evident misprint. 


by the affirmative. As, for example, if a manne should 
aske Tindall hymselfe : Ys an heretike mete to translate 
Holy Scripture into Englishe ? Lo, to thys question* 
if he will aunswere trew Englishe, he must aunswere 
'nay' and not 'no'. But and if the question be asked hym 
thus, lo : Is not an heretyque mete to translate Holy 
Scripture into English ? To this question, lo, if he will 
aunswer true English, he must aunswer ' no ' and not 
' nay '. 

" And a lyke difference is there betwene these two 
adverbes ' ye ' and ' yes '. For if the questeion bee framed 
unto Tindall by thaffirmative in thys fashion : If an 
heretique falsely translate the Newe Testament into 
Englishe, to make hys false heresyes seeme the Worde 
of Godde, be hys bookes worthy to be burned ? To 
this question, asked in thys wyse, yf he will aunswere 
true Englishe, he must aunswere 'ye' and not 'yes'. But 
nowe if the question be asked hym thus, lo, b}' the 
negative : If an heretike falsely translate the Newe 
Testament in to Englishe, to make hys false heresyes 
seme the Word of God, be not his bokes well worth}- to 
be burned ? To thys question, in thys fashion framed, 
if he wyll aunswere trew Englyshe, he maye not aunswere 
'ye,' but he must aunswere 'yes,' and say : ' Yes, mary 
be they, bothe the translation and the translatour, and 
al that wyll holde wyth them '. 

" And thys thing, lo, though it be no great matter, 
yet I have thought good to give Tindall warning of, 
because I would have him write true one way or other, 
that, though I can not make him by no meane to write 


true matter, I would have him yet at the lestwise write 
true Englishe." * 

In this passage we have "God" and ** Godde," 
"Tyndal" and ''Tindall," "heretike" and "heretyque," 
''true" and '' trew," '* aunswer," " aunswere," ''an- 
swereth," " answerring," and i interchanged with _v, ad 
libiUim. What would be gained by reproducing this 
medley, to the confusion of the modern reader ? — not 
even More's own spelling, if my theory of the type- 
setter's discretion or licence is correct. Yet the passage 
shows that More's words may not be tampered with. 
He wrote the purest English of his day, notwithstanding 
'' the tone and the tother," which was no vulgarism. 

14. State Papers, I now come to my principal 
reason for composing a new Life of the great chancellor, 
rather than translating or annotating Stapleton. It is, 
that we have access to many important documents un- 
known to him or to any former biographer. The Calen- 
dars of Letters and Papers, illustrating the reign of 
Henry VIII., have been carried through and beyond 
the life of Sir Thomas. The diligence of the accom- 
plished editors, Dr. Brewer and Mr. James Gairdner, 
has left almost nothing unprinted, or at least unindicated, 
that concerns either Henry or those brought into rela- 
tions with him. With these great volumes as my help 
and guide, I had already become pretty familiar with 
all that bears on the life of More when composing my 
Life of his fellow-martyr, Blessed John Fisher; but I 

* English Works, p. 448. This passage is followed by very interesting 
remarks on the force of the Greek article, and how its force may be 
rendered in English. 


have gone through all the volumes a second time, and 
sought out the originals in the Record Office or British 
'Museum, wherever there seemed to remain anything to 
be cleared up. 

Such, then, are the materials of this Memoir. Of the 
use made of them the writer is no competent judge. 
His self-love suggests to him no higher merits than that 
he has been industrious, and has worked with a sym- 
pathy for his subject. Sympathy, however, does not 
mean either blindness or partialit}'. I could have no 
real sympathy with such a man as Sir Thomas More if 
I did not appreciate the freedom of his judgment, and 
freely use my own with due proportion. Mr. Gairdner, 
■in a very kind notice of my Life of Blessed John Fisher 
in the Academy, remarks that, "for the great majority 
of Christians, the recent ' Beatification ' of Fisher, 
More, and others, has raised them beyond the reach of 
criticism by a distinct act of authority. Rome has de- 
clared her judgment ; and no fine, discriminating 
touches, no delicate lights and shades, can be permitted 
to interfere with the uniform brightness of one of her 
saintly martyrs." Mr. Gairdner somewhat guards these 
words by adding : " This, we suspect, is what an ordi- 
nary Protestant will think, and an ordinary Romanist 
will really think the same, with this difference merely, 
that the latter is submissive and humble before an 
authority that the former does not feel himself in any 
way bound to respect ".* Mr. Gairdner is, however, 
here not quite accurate. Though he seems to allow 
that a few exceptional "Romanists" will exercise a 

* Academy, August 4, 1888, p. 64. 


freer judgment, he is not authorised to suppose that 
even the most solemn judgment of canonisation places 
the object of it beyond a fair, candid, and intelligent 
criticism, even for the most docile and ordinary 
Catholics. But the life, character, and writings of 
Sir Thomas More have been subjected to no authori- 
tative scrutiny by the Holy See, and no judgment 
whatever has been passed upon them. It is only as 
martyrs of the faith that he and those included in the 
decree of the 29th December, 1886, are declared Blessed. 
But neither by this first decree, permitting their public 
cultus, nor by any further and more precise judgment, 
will the Church wish to convert the biographer into a 
writer of legend or a mere panegyrist. Canonisation 
surrounds the saintly head with a halo, but does not 
transform the features so that we cannot steadily fix 
our gaze upon them. If I have been sparing in criti- 
cism, it is because the longer and more minutely I 
have studied those features, the more I have admired 
and loved them. 

A word in conclusion regarding the frontispiece. 
Several beautiful engravings of More's portrait have 
been published, which I might have reproduced. The 
portrait that I have chosen is somewhat worn and 
blurred, but then it is absolutely authentic. It has been 
photographed from the original crayon sketch by Holbein 
in the Windsor Collection. The copies have been made, 
with Her Majesty's gracious permission, by Messrs. 
Braun & Co., of Paris, and the Autotype Co., London. 








England, once called the Island of Saints and the Dowry of the Virgin 
Mother of God, as even from the first ages of the Church it had been 
renowned for the sufferings of many Martyrs, so also, when it was torn 
by the fearful schism of the sixteenth century from the obedience and 
communion of the Roman See, was not without the testimony of those 
who, /or the dignity of this See, and for the truth of the orthodox Faith, 
did not hesitate to lay dozen their lives by the shedding of their blood * 

In this most noble band of Martyrs nothing whatever is wanting to 
its completeness or its honour : neither the grandeur of the Roman purple, 
nor the venerable dignity of Bishops, nor the fortitude of the Clergy both 
secular and regular, nor the invincible firmness of the weaker sex. Emi- 
nent amongst them is John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and Cardinal 
of the Holy Roman Church, whom Paul III. speaks of in his Letters as 
conspicHOHS for sanctity, celebrated for learning, venerable by age, an 
honour and an ornament to the kingdom, and to the Clergy of the 
whole world. With him must be named the layman Thomas Mori:, 
Chancellor of England, whom the same Pontiff deservedly extols, as 
excelling in sacred learning, and courageous in the defence of truth, 

* Gregory XIII. Constitution, Qnofiiam divinae bouitati, ist May, 1579. 


The most authoritative ecclesiastical historians, therefore, are unani- 
mously of opinion that they all shed their blood for the defence, 
restoration, and preservation of the Catholic Faith. Gregory XIII. 
even granted in their honour several privileges appertaining to public 
and ecclesiastical worship ; and chiefly that of using their relics in 
the consecration of altars, when relics of ancient Holy Martyrs could 
not be had. Moreover, after he had caused the sufferings of the 
Christian Martyrs to be painted in fresco by Nicholas Circiniana in 
the Church of St. Stephen on the Coelian Hill, he permitted also the 
Martyrs of the Church in Ei.gland, both of ancient and of more recent 
times, to be represented in like manner by the same artist in the English 
Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Rome, including those who, from 
the year 1535 to 1583, had died under King Henry VIII. and Queen 
Elizabeth, for the Catholic Faith and for the Primacy of the Roman 
Pontiff. The representations of these martyrdoms painted in the said 
Church remained, with the knowledge and approbation of the Roman 
Pontiffs who succeeded Gregory XIII., for two centuries, until, about the 
end of the last century, they were destroyed by wicked men. But copies 
of them still remained ; for in the year 1584, by privilege of the said 
Gregory XIII., they had been engraved at Rome on copper-plate with 
the title : Sufferings of the Holy Martyrs who, in ancient and more recent 
times of persecution, have been put to death in England for Christ, and 
for professing the truth of the Catholic Faith. From this record, either 
by inscriptions placed beneath them, or by other sure indications, many 
of these Martyrs are known by name; that is to say, fifty-four. They 
are : — 

Those who suffered death under King Henry VIII. : John Fisher, 
Bishop of Rochester, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church ; Thomas 
More, Chancellor of England ; Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, 
mother of Cardinal Pole ; Richard Reynolds, of the Order of St. 
Bridget; ^ohn Haile, Priest; eighteen Carthusians — namely, jl^ohn 
Houghton, Augustine Webster, Robert Laurence, William Exniew, 
Humphrey Middlemorc, Sebastian Newdigate, John Rochester , jfames 
Walworth, William Greenwood, John Davy, Robert Salt, Walter 
Picrson, Thomas Green, Thomas Seryven, Thomas Redyng, Thomas 
jfohnson, Richard Bcre, and William Home ; Johii Forest, Priest 
of the Order of St. Francis; yohn Stone, of the Order of St. Augustine; 
four Secular Priests — Thomas Abel, Ed7vard Poicel, Richard Fctherston, 
jfohn Larke ; and German Gardiner, a layman. 

Those who suffered under Elizabeth : Priests — Cuthbert Mayne, yohn 
Nelson, Evcrard Hanse, Rodolph Sherivin, yohn Payne, Thomas Ford, 
jfohn Shert, Robert yohnson, William Fylby, Luke Kirby, Laurence 


Richardson, William Lacy, Richard Kirkinaii, jfanics Hudson or Tonip- 
son, William Hart, Richard Thirkcld, Thomas Woodhousc, and 

Plumtrcc. Also three Priests of the Society of Jesus — Edmund Campion, 
Alexander Briant, and Thomas Cottam. Lastly, John Storey, Doctor of 
Laws ; John Felton and Thomas Shcrzcood, laymen. 

Until lately, the Cause of these Martyrs had never been officially 
treated. Some time ago, in the year i860, Cardinal Nicholas Wise- 
man, of illustrious memory. Archbishop of Westminster, and the 
other Bishops of England, petitioned the Sovereign Pontiff Pius IX., 
of sacred memory, to institute for the whole of England a Festival in 
honour of all Holy Martyrs, that is to say, even of those who, though not 
yet declared to be such, have in latter times, for their defence of the Catholic 
Religion, and especially for asserting tJie authority of the Apostolic See, 
fallen by the hands of ivicked men and resisted unto blood. But as, ac- 
cording to the prevailing practice of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, 
a Festival can be instituted in regard only to those Servants of God to 
whom ecclesiastical honour (cultus) has been already given and rightly 
sanctioned by the Apostolic See, the said petition was not granted. 
Wherefore, in these last years, a new petition was presented to Our Holy 
Father the Sovereign Pontiff Leo XHL, by His Eminence Cardinal 
Henry Edward Manning, the present Archbishop of Westminster, and 
the other Bishops of England, together with the Ordinary Process which 
had been there completed, and other authentic documents, in which were 
contained the proofs of Martyrdom as to those who suffered from the year 
1535 to 15S3, and also the aforesaid concessions of the Roman Pontiffs in 
regard to those above-mentioned. 

Our Holy Father was pleased to commit the examination of the whole 
matter to a Special Congregation, consisting of several Cardinals of the 
Holy Roman Church and of Officials of the Congregation of Sacred 
Rites — the examination to be preceded by a Disquisition, to be drawn up 
by the Right Reverend Augustine Caprara, Promoter of the Holy P^aith. 
In this Special Congregation, assembled at the Vatican on the 4th day 
of December of the present year, the undersigned Cardinal Dominic 
Bartolini, Prefect of the said Sacred Congregation, who had charge of 
the Cause, proposed the following question : " Whether, by reason of the 
special concessions of the Roman Pontiffs, in regard to the earlier Martyrs 
of England — who, from the year 1535 to 1583, suffered death for the 
Catholic Faith, and for the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff in the Churchy, 
and whose Martyrdoms were formerly painted, by authority of the 
Sovereign Pontiff Gregory XIII,, in the English Church of the Most 
Holy Trinity in Rome, and in the year 1584 were engraved at Rome on 
copper-plate l)y privilege of the same Pontiff — there is evidence of the con- 


cession of public ecclesiastical honour, or of this being a case excepted 
by the Decrees of Pope Urban VIII., of Sacred Memory, in the matter 
and to the effect under consideration ". The Most Eminent and Most 
Reverend Fathers, and the Official Prelates, after hearing the written 
and oral report of the aforesaid Promoter of the Holy Faith, and after the 
matter in regard to the fifty-four Martyrs above-named had been fully 
discussed, were of opinion that the answer to be given was : ^'■Affirmatively, 
or That it is proved to be a case excepted ". 

The undersigned Secretary having made a faithful report of all that 
precedes to Our Holy Father Pope Leo XHI., His Holiness vouchsafed 
to approve the decision of the Sacred Special Congregation, on the gth 
day of December, 1886. 

The present Decree was issued on this 29th day of December, sacred 
to the Martyr Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury, whose faith and con- 
stancy these Blessed Martyrs so strenuously imitated. 


Prefect of the Congregation of Sacred Rites. 
Laurence Salvati, 

L. ►J- S. 


PREFACE, .... 


I, Childhood, 
II. Youth, 

III. Choice of a State of Life, 

IV. Early Manhood, 
V. Personal, . 


VII. Literary, 
VIII. Domestic, . 
IX. Secretary and Privy Councillor, 
X, Diplomatist and Statesman, 
XI. The German Reformation, 
XII. Chancellor, 

XIII. After the Resignation, 

XIV. Treatment of Heretics, 
XV. English Controversy, 

XVI. First Troubles, 
XVII. The Holy Maid of Kent 
XVIII. Before the Council, 
XIX. Refusal of the Oath, 
XX. The Tower, 
XXI. Ascetic Writings, 
XXII. Examinations in Prison, 

XXIII. The Trial, . 

XXIV. The Martyrdom, 
APPENDIX A. Relics, . 

,, B. Monuments, 

„ C. Pedigrees and Arms, 

„ D. Astronomical System, 

,, E. Some Descendants of the M 

Chronological Table of Life, 

of Writings 




















BLESSED Thomas More, hitherto known as Sir Thomas 
More, Lord Chancellor of England, was the eldest son 
of John More, Gentleman, afterwards Sir John More, 
Knight, puisne judge of the King's Bench in the time of 
Henry VHL 

The early lives of Sir Thomas More place his birth in the 
year 1480, thus making him about fifty-five years old at the 
time of his martyrdom.* A recent discovery has proved that 

* His son-in-law, Roper, says nothing of his age, nor does Harpsfield. 
Cresacre More says he was born in 1480. He seems to have taken this 
date from the family picture, commonly called the Burford Picture, pamted 
in 1593. On this picture is an inscription stating that in 1505 Sir Thomas 
was in the twenty-sixth year of his age, and that he was in his fifty-fifth 
year at his death — 6th July, 1535. The error arose from supposing that 
the more famous Holbein family picture, on which the ages are noted, 
was painted in 1530 ; for on this Sir Thomas is declared to be in his 
fiftieth year. The picture, however, was painted not later than January, 
1528. This will be shown later on. Stapleton errs still more widelv. 
In Chapter IV. he says that More wrote the Utopia in 1516, being then 
in his thirty-fourth year, and died in 1535, in his fifty-second year. This 
would place his birth in the latter part of 1482. Again, in Chapter VI., 
he says that at his death he was not yet fully fifty-two years old. The 
same mistake occurs in Chapter I, Though Stapleton was intimate 
with members of More's household, they apparently only guessed at his 
age, and it would seem from their mistake that he looked younger than 
he really was. Blessed John Fisher's looks, on the contrary, caused his 
age to be greatly exaggerated. 



he was in reality two years older. The same document makes 
known to us the maiden name of his mother, and the correct 
number of his brothers and sisters. Stapleton could not dis- 
cover the mother's name. Cresacre More gives it as Hand- 
comb of Holiwell, in Bedfordshire. This, however, was possi- 
bly the name — not of Sir Thomas's mother, but of his father's 
second w^ife.* The ignorance and mistakes are easily accounted 
for by the seizure of all family papers by the king at the at- 
tainder of Sir Thomas. 

In 1868, Mr. William Aldis Wright discovered, on the last 
leaves of a MS. in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, 
a series of family records, which supply names and dates till 
then unknown.! From these it appears that John More 
married on 24th April, 1474, Agnes, daughter of Thomas 
Graunger, in the parish of St. Giles in Cripplegate Without, 
London. They had issue, three sons and three daughters. 
The eldest child, Jane, was born on nth jVLarch, 1475. The 
second child was Thomas, the future chancellor and martyr. 
The entry says : " On the Friday next after the Feast of the 
Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, viz., the seventh day 
of February, between the second and third hours of the morn- 
ing, was born Thomas More, son of John More, Gentleman, 
in the 17th year of the reign of Edward IV." + In the year 
1478, 7th February was Saturday ; but by a natural confusion 
it has been set down as Friday, since the birth took place soon 
after midnight. 

* According, however, to Mr. Foss, John More's second wife was 
Mrs. Bowes, a widow, whose maiden name was Barton {Lives of yudges, 
vi. 198). The third wife's name was More. 

t See Notes and Queries, 17th October, 1868 ; also 31st October and 
5th November ; repubhshed also in Mr. Seebohm's Oxford Reformers, 
2nd edition (i86g). App. C. 

X Md quod die veneris proximo post Festum purificacionis beate Marie 
virginis videlicet septimo die Februarii inter horam secundam et horam 
tertiam in mane natus fuit Thomas More filius Joannis More Gent, anno 
regni Regis Edwardi quarti post conquestum Anglic decimo septimo. 


Agatha, a third child, was born 31st January, 1479 ; John, the 
fourth, on 6th June, 1480 ; Edward, the fifth, on 3rd September, 
1481 : and Ehzabeth, the sixth and last, on 22nd September, 
1482. Stapleton says Thomas had no brothers, and only two 
sisters, Jane and Elizabeth. This is repeated by Cresacre 
]\Iore, who adds another error in making Elizabeth older than 
Thomas. It is probable that John, Edward, and Agatha all 
died in their infancy. 

In the epitaph which Sir Thomas prepared for himself, he 
says that he was born of " a family, not illustrious, yet honour- 
able ".* He was not noble, says his great-grandson, "as we 
here in England take nobility ; for none under a baron (except 
he be of the Privy Council) doth challenge it ; but as the word 
is taken in other countries for gentry, it was otherwise. Foi' 
Judge More, " (the father of Sir Thomas), bare arms from his 
birth, having his coat quartered, which doth argue that he 
came to his inheritance by descent, and therefore, although 
by reason of King Henry's seizure of all our evidences, we 
cannot certainly tell who were Sir John's ancestors, yet must 
they needs be gentlemen ; and, as I have heard, they either 
came out of the ]\Iores of Ireland, or they of Ireland came 
out of us ".t 

Mr. Edward Foss, who has gone into the question of More's 
origin with much detail, differs entirely in his view as to the 
nobility of his family. His researches have led him to discover 
three men of the name of John More, connected with the Inns 
of Court. There was one in the Middle Temple who was 
reader in that society in 1505, and again in 15 12. Mr. Foss 
gives convincing reasons that this gentleman cannot have been 
the future judge, who belonged to Lincoln's Inn, not to the 
Temple. Now, two John Mores were members of the society 

* Familia non celebri sed honesta natus. 
t Life of More, chap. i. 


of Lincoln's Inn. One had been butler* and steward, and was 
admitted a student in 1470. He was subsequently called to the 
bar and became a bencher, and was appointed reader in 1489. 
As he had been already a long time {diu) butler in 1470, we 
must suppose him to have been forty, or at least thirty-five, 
years old when he became a student. He cannot then have 
been the John More who w^as appointed judge in 15 17, and 
who died in 1530, aged seventy-eight. 

There is, however, a second John More in that society, who, 
in 1482, is called Junior. He also was butler, and Mr. Foss 
takes him to have been a son of the one just mentioned, and 
the father of Sir Thomas ; and he thinks he was raised from 
the position he occupied to become a member of the society 
by his father's influence. Whatever may be the truth with 
regard to this matter, the father of the future chancellor 
received the coif of sergeant-at-law in November, 1503. He 
became a judge in the Court of Common Pleas in November, 
15 1 7, and w^as transferred to the King's Bench probably in 
April, 1520. t 

A few years before his death. Sir Thomas composed his 
own epitaph, in which he thus speaks of his father, who was 
lately deceased : " His father, John More, Knight, appointed 
by his king to the order of judges called the King's Bench, 
was a man courteous, affable, innocent, gentle, merciful, just, 
and uncorrupted ". The crayon sketch made by Holbein of 
this venerable man in 1527, when he was in his seventy-sixth 
year, is still in existence in the Windsor collection. It is a 
charming face, full of life and kindly mirth. He seems to be 
uttering one of the pleasant sayings for which he is said to 
have been famous, though eclipsed i)y his more brilliant son. 
Two of these, which Sir Thomas has preserved for us, are 

■*' We need not think of this office as a mere menial function. We find 
noblemen bearing the title, and receiving a salary as "butler" to a 

t On the pedigree and arms of Sir Thomas, see Appendix C. 


somewhat satirical upon women, although the son quotes them 
only as amusing illustrations for other purposes : " I would 
that we were all in the case with our own faults, as my 
father saith that we be with our wives. For when he heareth 
folk blame wives, and say that there be so many of them 
shrews, he saith that they defame them falsely. For he saith 
plainly that there is but one shrew-wife in the world, but he 
saith indeed that every man weeneth he hath her, and that 
that one is his own. So would I fain that every man would 
ween there were but one man naught [good-for-nothing] in 
all the w^hole world, and that that one w^ere himself."* And 
in another place, speaking about a man's choosing his religion 
among the various sects : " But now, if ye were in the case that 
I have heard my father merrily say every man is at the choice 
of his wife, that ye should put your hand into a blind ])ag full 
of snakes and eels together, seven snakes for one eel, ye would, 
I ween, reckon it a perilous choice to take up one at adventure, 
though ye had made your special prayer to speed weH".+ As 
Sir John More was three times married, it would be interesting 
to know the date of these sayings, and whether they embody 
the fruits of his experience, or w-ere a kind of humorous 
philosophy, which formed no guide of his life. One of his 
son's epigrams alludes to this class of sharp sayings al)out 
wives : — 

Hoc quisque dicit ; dicit, at ducit tamen, 
Quin sex sepultis septimam ducit tamen. 

John Clements heard Sir Thomas repeat what he had heard 
from his father, Sir John : that his first wife in a dream saw 
engraved on her marriage ring, as in a series of cameos, the 
names and likenesses of the children she should bear. One of 
these was so obscure that she could not recognise it, and 
this referred to a child of untimely birth ; another shone far 
brighter than the rest. It is to be supposed that it was after 

* English Works, p. 233. t lb., p. 165. 


his son's elevation to the chancellorship, which the old man 
lived to witness, that he remembered and related this story of 
his young wife's dream.* 

A tradition was handed down in the family that when 
Thomas was an infant, his nurse was carrying him in her arms 
as she forded a river on horseback. The horse stumbled in 
ascending the bank ; the nurse, in fear of falling into the water, 
threw the child over the iieighbouring hedge. When she got 
safe to land she found the babe lying unhurt, and laughing as 
she stooped to pick him up.f 

John More, at the time of his son's birth and long after, 
lived in Milk Street, in the city of London. Thomas was born 
in the heat of the civil wars of the Roses, and, being five years 
old at the death of Edward IV., overheard a neighbour relate 
to his father a prediction made by one of the followers of the 
Duke of York, afterwards Richard III., that his master would 
be king. This prediction, so soon followed by its fulfilment, 
made so deep an impression on the child that he never forgot 

Roper, and after him Harpsfield and Stapleton, mention that 
the school in which young Thomas learned the rudiments of 
Latin was St. Anthony's, a free school belonging to the Hos- 
pital of St. Anthony in Threadneedle Street, London, at that 
time taught by an excellent master, Nicolas Holt. § It had 

* When a dream passes through five mouths — the mother, Sir John, 
Sir Thomas, Clements, Stapleton — and is at last written down loo years 
after its occurrence, we cannot be sure of its original form. At all events 
it was not Sander's invention, as Burnet affirms. Stapleton says : Thomam 
Morum ex patre suo referentem audivit Joannes Clemens (Vita Mori, 
cap. i). 

f Stapleton may have learnt this from Mrs. Clements or from Doroth} 

+ Quem ego sermonem ab eo memini patri meo renuntiatum. The 
words are not in the English version of the History of RiclianI III. 

§ Holt was author of a Latin grammar called Lnc Pucronini (Foss, 
vi. 203). 


been founded by Henry VI. in 1445. Thence he was trans- 
ferred to the household of Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of 
Canterbury. The households of great ecclesiastics were schools 
both of learning and good breeding for the sons of the gentry, 
and even of the higher nobility. Many years later, and long 
after the Cardinal's death, More put the following description 
of his patron in the mouth of Hythloday, the supposed traveller 
to Utopia : — 

" The Cardinal was of a middle stature, retaining his strength 
even in advanced age ; his looks begot reverence rather than 
fear ; his conversation was easy, but serious and grave ; he 
sometimes took pleasure to try the force of those that came 
as suitors to him upon business by speaking sharply, though 
decently, to them, and by that he discovered their spirit and 
presence of mind ; with which he was much delighted when it 
did not grow up to impudence, as bearing a great resemblance 
to his own temper, and he looked on such persons as the 
fittest men for affairs. He spoke both gracefully and weightily ; 
he was eminently skilled in the law, had a vast understanding, 
and a prodigious memory ; and those excellent talents with 
which nature had furnished him were improved by study and 
experience. When I was in England the king depended 
much on his counsels, and the Government seemed to be 
chiefly supported by him ; for from his youth he had been 
all along practised in affairs ; and, having passed through 
many traverses of fortune, he had, with great cost, acquired a 
vast stock of wisdom, which is not soon lost when it is pur- 
chased so dear." * 

It must certainly be counted among the special graces of 
More that his mind, so shrewd and inclined to satire, formed 
its first impressions of the Church from the frequentation of so 
excellent a prelate as Morton, rather than in the household 
of a Bainbridge or a Wolsey ; for, though the Church of 

* Utopia (Burnet's translation). 


Jesus Christ, as a Divine institution, is independent of its earthly 
representatives, yet a mind early prejudiced acquires with 
difficulty that well-balanced judgment that is able to consider 
calmly good and evil, and to assign each to its proper source.* 
It was also very fortunate for More that Cardinal Morton 
formed a favourable opinion of the youth who had been com- 
mitted to him. Roper writes as follows: "Though More 
were young of years, yet would he at Christmas suddenly 
sometimes step in among the players, and, never studying for 
the matter, make a part of his own there presently among them, 
which made the lookers-on more sport than the players beside. t 
In whose wit and towardness the Cardinal much delighting, 
would often say of him to the nobles that divers times dined 
with him : ' This child here waiting at the table, whoever 
shall Hve to see it, will prove a marvellous man '. Whereupon, 
for his better furtherance in learning, he placed him at Oxford." 

* A Catholic writer, in the Dublin Review for June, 1858, says that 
*' a tone of cold and sneering disrespect towards the Holy See pervades 
More's Utopia ; and that it is impossible not to see that More had im- 
bibed these ideas from Cardinal Morton's conversation ". As I can find 
no such tone in More's Utopia, it is impossible for me to attribute it to 
Morton's influence. 

t These Christmas plays were, no doubt, in English ; Sir Thomas, 
however, in his Utopia, alludes to the plays of Plautus as if they were 
not unknown to the English stage, probably in the schools or universities, 
or inns of court. 



IT was probably in the year 1492, when he was fourteen 
years old, that More was sent to the university. Of his 
Oxford career our information is very scanty. Roper 
merely says that Cardinal Morton " placed him at Oxford, 
where, when he was in the Greek and Latin tongues sufficiently 
instructed, he was then for the study of the law put to an Inn 
of Chancery ". Harpsfield, an Oxford man, was able to add 
the length of his stay at the university : " For the short time 
of his abode," he writes, "being not fully two years, and for 
his age, he wonderfully profited in the Latin and Greek 
tongues ; where if he had settled and fixed himself, and run 
his full race in the study of the liberal sciences and divinity, 
I trow he would have been the singular and only spectacle 
of this our time for learning". Cresacre adds that he was 
placed at Canterbury Hall* This hall had been founded by 
Archbishop Islip in 1363, and was intended principally for the 
study of the canon and civil law. At the suppression it was 
transferred by Henry to his (or rather Wolsey's) great founda- 
tion of Christ Church. Its site is now occupied by Canter- 
bury Quadrangle of that college. 

It was easy for the Cardinal to find him an entrance in this 
hall. We are not told how far he contributed to his main- 
tenance there. The life of a scholar, as provided by the 
foundation, was a hard one. More' placed it at the lowest 

* St. Mary's Hall has been mentioned by others as his residence. 


degree of his experiences. In his address to his family after 
resigning the chancellorship, he said : " I have been brought 
up at Oxford, at an Inn of the Chancery, at Lincoln's Inn, and 
also in the King's Court, and so from the least degree to the 
highest ". If it is true that More's father was the quondam 
butler of Lincoln's Inn, he would be only a young and struggling 
barrister, burdened with a large family, at the period of his 
son's Oxford residence. 

Certain it is that More's allowance from his father did not 
in any way mitigate the penury of his life, which is thus 
described by Stapleton : '* Grocyn had recently returned from 
Italy, and was the first who brought Greek letters into England, 
and publicly taught them at Oxford. From his companion, 
Thomas Linacre, More learnt Greek at Oxford, as he himself 
mentions in his epistle to Dorpius.* His father, however, 
while desirous to give his son a liberal education, wished that 
he should learn from his earliest years to be frugal and sober, 
and to love nothing biit his studies and literature. For this 
reason he gave him the bare necessaries, and would not allow 
him a farthing to spend freely. This he carried out so strictly 
that he had not money to mend his worn-out shoes, without 
asking it from his father. More used often to relate this con- 
duct of his father, and greatly extolled it. ' It was thus ' (he 
would say) ^ that I indulged in no vice or pleasure, and spent 
my time in no vain or hurtful amusements ; I did not know 
what luxury meant, and never learnt to use money badly ; in a 
word, I loved and thought of nothing but my studies.'" These 
words are the more remarkable that More was not defending 
his treatment of his own children by the example of his father, 
for we shall see that he could be very generous. 

Erasmus declares that More's father, both while his son was 
at Oxford and afterwards, treated him thus severely because he 

■*• Quum ipse jam olim Aristotelis opus audirem Greece, perlegente 
mihi atque interpretante Linacro. 


saw him too much addicted to literature,* and feared that he 
might neglect liis legal studies. Such a testimony cannot be 
lightly set aside, since Erasmus became intimate with More in 
his early manhood ; but it is pushing the words of Erasmus 
beyond their necessary reach to suppose, as some have done, 
that John More was unwilling that his son should learn Greek, 
or that Thomas gave himself to this study in distinct opposition 
to his father's will. For, according to his biographers, his filial 
piety and deference to his father's wishes knew no bounds, and 
he seems to have complied with them fully by vigorously pro- 
secuting his legal studies, and giving to literature those hours 
only which he could save from sleep or recreation. 

Stapleton on this head writes : " Throughout his whole life 
he was most reverent towards his father, so that he neither 
offended him in anything, nor took offence at anything said or 
done by him. When he was chancellor he did not hesitate, 
publicly in the palace of Westminster, to kneel down and ask 
his father's blessing, according to the excellent custom of our 
country. For with us children are wont both morning and 
evening to kneel and ask the blessing of both parents, though, 
when grown up and married, especially in the higher classes, 
they discontinue the practice, whereas More continued it." 

Besides Greek and Latin, he learned, in his youth, French, 
music, arithmetic, and geometry, and read every book of history 
he could procure. He was fond of music, and learned to play 
on the viol,t as w^ell as on the flute. 

If More's study of Cireek was for the sake of the treasures of 
literature and philosophy embodied in that language, he studied 
Latin no less for its practical utility. Latin was still in a sense a 

* Bonas literas a primis statim annis hauserat. Juvenis ad Grsecas 
literas ac philosophiai studium sese applicuit, adeo non opitulante patre, 
viro alioqui prudenti proboque, ut ea conantem omni subsidio destitueret 
ac pene pro abdicate haberet, quod a patriis studiis desciscere videretur 
{Epist. 605, to be given in full later on). 

t Stapleton, cap. 2. 


living language. It was the means of communication not only in 
the Church, but between statesmen, ambassadors, and the learned 
and cultured of every country. It was necessary to write and 
to speak it with facility and elegance as well as to read it. 
Probably not many days passed in More's life in which he was 
not called on to converse in Latin. His style was greatly 
admired by his critical contemporaries. It was not formed 
without much labour. Erasmus, in saying that More strove long 
to render it easy and harmonious,* seems to imply that at first 
it was somewhat involved or harsh. It has been called 
Erasmian, yet no one who has a moderate acquaintance with 
the two writers could mistake one for the other, any more than 
an Englishman at all familiar with our literature could attribute 
a page of Johnson to Addison. 

Richard Pace, secretary of Latin letters to Henry VIII. and 
Dean of St. Paul's, himself an elegant scholar, and a very inti- 
mate friend of More's, published in 15 17 a short Latin treatise 
on "The Fruit to be derived from Learning". In it he has some 
interesting remarks on More's genius and scholarship. I trans- 
late a few^ passages : " Here I will remark that no one ever lived 
who did not first ascertain the meaning of words, and from 
them gather the meaning of the sentences which they compose — 
no one, I say, with one single exception, and that is our own 
Thomas More. For he is wont to gather the force of the words 
from the sentences in which they occur, especially in his study 
and translation of Greek. This is not contrary to grammar, 
but above it, and an instinct of genius. Indeed, his genius is 
more than human, and his learning not only eminent, but so 
various, that there is nothing of which he seems to be ignorant. 
His eloquence is incomparable and twofold, for he speaks with 
the same facility in Latin as in his own language. His sense 
of fun is joined with perfect refinement — you may call humour 

* Diu luctatus est ut prosam orationem redderet molliorem, per omne 
scripti genus stylum exercens (£/>. 447). 

YOUTH. 13 

his father, and wit his mother.* When the matter requires it, 
he can imitate a good cook, and serve up the meat in sharp 
sauce. . . . He has declared open war against such as give 
utterance to things that are neither true nor probable, and 
beyond the capacity or knowledge of the speaker. Thus he 
once heard two Scotist theologians, men of a certain importance, 
and preachers, seriously affirm that King Arthur — whom some 
deny ever to have been born, and others ever to have died — 
had made himself a cloak of the beards of the giants whom he 
had killed in battle. When More asked them how that could 
be, the elder of the two, putting on a grave countenance, re- 
plied : ' The reason, my youth, is clear, for the skin of a dead 
man is elastic '. The other, hearing this, not only assented, but 
admired the answer as subtle and Scotistic. More was but a 
boy, but he answered : ' What you say was hitherto quite as 
unknown to me as it was perfectly well known that one of you 
milks a he-goat while the other holds a sieve '.f When he saw 
that they did not understand his meaning, he laughed to him- 
self, and went his way. 

"I regret to say that IVIore has frequently the ill-luck that when- 
ever he says something very learned or acute among such digni- 
fied X fathers in reference to their science, which is also quite as 
much his own, they always oppose him, and call his words 
puerile. It is not that they really think him wrong, or that he 
says anything puerile, but that they are jealous of his mar- 
vellous talent, and of his knowledge of so many other things of 
which they are ignorant." § 

* lam adeo non vulgariter facetus et urbanus, ut leporem ipsum ei 
patrem et facetiam matrem fuisse judices. Perhaps Pace had in his mind 
the words of Job : " I have said to rottenness : Thou art my father ; to 
worms, my mother and my sister" {yob xvii. 14). 

t An allusion to an epigram of Martial. 

:J: Leucomitratos — "white-mitred," or more probably "white-girdled," 
in allusion to the white cord of the Minorites; for there does not seem to 
be any reference to bishops. Perhaps merely "white-haired". 

§ Dc Fructii qui ex doctrina pcrcipitiir, p. 82 (ed. 1517). 


Of ^lore's Latin writings much will be said later on. This 
may be a fit place to mention some of his first efforts in English 
literature. William Rastell, in the time of Queen Mary, 
gathered together and reprinted whatever he could find of his 
Uncle More's boyish essays ; amongst them are some English 
verses that More would gladly have let pass into oblivion. "A 
merry tale how a serjeant would learn to play the frere." I 
cannot say that there is much merriment in this piece. A line 
or two will be enough as a specimen oi his rhyming powers : — 

A man of law that never saw 

The ways to buy and sell, 
Weening to rise by merchandise — 

I pray God speed him well. 
A merchant eke that will go seek, 

Bv all the means he may. 
To fall in suit, till he dispute 

His living clean away, 
Pleading the law for every straw. 

Shall prove a thrifty man, 
With hate and strife ; but, by my life, 

I cannot tell you when.* 

He printed at the beginning of a '' Book of Fortune" a large 
number of verses in the seven-line stanzas then so popular. 
Though they are only the commonplaces of a clever boy's 
theme, yet they curiously represent the philosophy of his life, 
and the " Dialogue'' which he wrote in the Tower when {prepar- 
ing for death is in many points only a development of this essay 
of his youth. He never at any time of his life lost sight of 
what he had written as a boy about Fortune's Wheel : — 

Alas ! the foolish people cannot cease 

Ne void her train, till they the harm do feel — 

About her always busily they press ; 

But, Lord ! how he doth think himself full well 

That may set once his hand upon her w heel ; 

He holdeth fast, but upward as he flieth, 

She whippeth her wheel about, and there he lieth. 

* Always written by More '•whan,'" and doubtless so pronounced. 



The following sian/a is very striking and harmonious, and 
might have been written by Spenser or by Gray : — 

Fast by her side cloth weary Labour stand, 
Pale Fear also, and Sorrow all bewept, 
Disdain and Hatred on that other hand 
Kke restless watch, from sleep with travail kept, 
His eyes drowsy, and looking as he slept, 
Hefore her standeth Dan<;er and Fnvy, 
Flattery, Deceit, Mischief and Tyranny. 

Among the freaks of Fortune was one with which the pre- 
ceding reigns had made the minds of men in England but too 
familiar : — 

She suddenly enhanceth them aloft, 

And suddenly mischieveth all the flock ; 
The head that late lay easily and full soft, 

Instead of pillows lieth after on the block. 

The r>lock ! It is a popular sui)erstition that when a cold 
shiver goes suddenly over a man, without any apparent cause, 
it is because someone has stepped over his future grave. Did 
any shadow pass over the bright and handsome face of young 
More when he wrote that terrible word — the Block ? Or was it 
rather a halo tliat {flayed for a moment around his brow? 

There is another effort of his English Muse which gives 
greater promise than the preceding that he might, had he given 
himself to this species of comjK^sition, have anticii)ated some- 
thing of the beauties of the Elizabethan poets. It is "A Rueful 
Lamentation " on the death of Queen Elizabeth — commonly 
called the Good — the wife of Henry ^TI. She died on nth 
February, 1503. More was just twenty-hve years old. On 
such occasions it was customary for scholars to make an offer- 
ing of verse at Court. The poet represents the queen on her 
death-bed, taking her last farewell. Each stanza ends with the 
words, "and lo ! now here I lie". The following lines remind 
us that the name of Shene had lately been exchanged tor that 


of Richmond, in honour of the king's mother — Lady Margaret, 
Countess of Richmond — and that the king was building the 
beautiful chapel in Westminster Abbey that still bears his 
name : — 

Where are our castles, now where are our towers ? 
Goodly Richmond, soon art thou gone from me ; 
At Westminster that costly work of yours, 
Mine own dear lord, now shall I never see. 
Almighty God vouchsafe to grant that ye 
For you and your children well may edify. 
My palace builded is, and lo ! now here I lie. 

After taking leave of her husband, she thus addresses her chil- 
dren. To understand the allusions, it must be remembered 
that Arthur, the eldest son, had been dead nearly a year ; Mar- 
garet, the eldest daughter, had been lately married by proxy to 
the King of Scotland, but had not yet left England : — 

Farewell, my daughter. Lady Margaret, 

God wot full oft it grieved hath my mind 

That ye should go where we should seldom meet ; 

Now am I gone, and have left you behind. 

O mortal folk, that we be very blind ! 

That we least fear, full oft it is most nigh. 

From you depart I first, and lo ! now here I lie. 

Adieu, Lord Henry, my loving son, adieu ! 
Our Lord increase your honour and estate. 
Adieu, my daughter Mary, bright of hue ! 
God make you virtuous wife and fortunate.*' 
Adieu, sweetheart, my little daughter Kate ! 
Thou shalt, sweet babe — such is thy destiny — 
Thy mother never know, for lo ! now here I lie. t 

She then addresses her sisters, the youngest of whom, Bridget^ 
was a Dominican nun at Dartford : — 

* She was married to Louis XI L, King of France and afterwards to 
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, 
t This princess died in her infancy. 

YOUTH. 17 

Lady Cecily, Anne and Katharine, 

Farewell, my well-beloved sisters three ; 

O Lady Bridget ! other sister mine, 

Lo ! here the end of worldly vanity ; 

Now well are ye that earthly folly flee, 

And heavenly thinges love and magnify. 

Farewell, and pray for me, for lo ! now here I lie. 

But ]\Iore was neither destined to rival Skelton as poet- 
laureate nor to become illustrious among our English poets. 
His fame in literature rests rather on his Latin epigrams, and, 
still more, on his Utopia^ which must be treated of when we 
come to the time of their publication. But gifts and qualities 
far higher than learning, wit or polished style have made the 
name of More illustrious ; and we must now consider how the 
foundations of his noble life were laid in early manhood. When 
]\Iore was a youth in his father's house he conceived a plan for 
nine pageants to be executed in painting or tapestry, to repre- 
sent the history of a human soul, and for these pageants he 
wrote appropriate mottoes. These have been printed, but there 
is a harshness in some of the lines that suggests the thought that 
they may have been inaccurately worked on the tapestry or in- 
accurately copied. They are full of interest, as bearing on the 
history of the young writer. Long before Shakspere wrote 
his Seven Ages of Alan the same line of thought had been pur- 
sued both in verse and delineation,* More does not confine 
himself to this world. His pageants comprise both the present 
life and the next. They are Childhood, ALinhood, Love (or 
Venus and Cupid), Age, Death, Fame, Time, and Eternity, 
and, lastly, the Poet summing up the whole and drawing the 
moral. In the first pageant Childhood says : — 

In play is all my mind : 
To cast a coit, a cokstele and a ball ; 

* See a treatise on the division of man's life into ages, by J. W. Jones, 
in The Arclueologia, xxxv. 167, with illustrations. 



A top can I set, and drive it in its kind. 
But would to God these hateful books all 
Were in a fire brent to powder small. 

If these words do not well represent More's boyhood, still less 
do the next give a picture of his youth : — 

To hunt and hawk, to nourish up and feed 

The greyhound to the course, the hawk to the flight. 

And to bestride a good and lusty steed — 

These things become a very man indeed. 

It is easy to guess what Love and Age and Death have to say 
for themselves. In the sixth pageant Fame rebukes Death's 
proud boast : — 

O cruel Death ! thy power I confound ; 
When thou a noble man hast brought to ground, 
Maugre thy teeth to live cause him shall I, 
Of people in perpetual memory. 

In the seventh, Time scoffs at this promise, since in his pro- 
gress he will destroy the world itself, and then Fame will be 
mute. But Eternity rebukes Time, which is but the revolution 
of sun and moon. In the last pageant the poet writes in Latin. 
Evidently God only is the everlasting Good ; let us distrust 
what is fleeting and love God alone : — 

Qui dabit a;ternam nobis pro munere vitam 
In permansuro ponite vota Deo. 

In these verses the youth expressed what proved to be the 
philosophy of his whole life. 



ON leaving Oxford, More was placed by his father at New 
Inn, an Inn of Chancery dependent on Lincoln's Inn. 
Here he was to acquire the learning of writs and pro- 
cedure before studying the more abstruse branches of legal 
science at Lincoln's Inn.* 

In the universities of Oxford and Cambridge Canon Law 
as well as Roman Civil Law were studied, while little atten- 
tion was given to English (or Municipal) Law. This is divided 
into Common Law and Equity, the former of which guides 
and governs the Common Law Courts, and the latter the Court 
of Chancery. Hence, since the Law Courts sat principally at 
Westminster, the lawyers who there pleaded set up at an early 
period hostels or inns {hospitid) in London, not only as cham- 
bers and residences, but as places of study and training. In 
the middle of the fourteenth century, after the suppression of 
the Knights Templars, a more convenient site was procured, 
nearer to Westminster, and away from the noise of the city of 
London. This is still the lawyers' quarter. In the time of Sir 
Thomas More there were four Inns of Court — the Inner Temple, 
Middle Temple, Lincoln's Inn, and Gray's Inn, and ten Inns 
of Chancery dependent on the Inns of Court.f 

The reader may be interested to know that the great hall of 

* Lord Campbell. 

t The Inns of Chancery are now only used as chambers, and are princi- 
pally inhabited by solicitors and attorneys. 


Lincoln's Inn was built in 1506. Over the gateway in Chancery 
Lane is the date 15 18. These, therefore^ were seen by More, 
though built when he had ceased to reside. Lord Campbell 
writes : " With us a sufficient knowledge of jurisprudence is 
supposed to be gained by eating a certain number of dinners in 
the hall of one of the Inns of Court, whereby men are often 
called to the bar wholly ignorant of their profession ; and being 
pushed on by favour or accident, or native vigour of mind, they 
are sometimes placed in high judicial situations, having no 
acquaintance with law beyond what they may have picked up 
as practitioners at the bar.* Then, the Inns of Court and 
Chancery presented the discipline of a well constituted uni- 
versity ; and, through professors, under the name of ' readers,' 
and exercises under the name of ' mootings,' law was syste- 
matically taught, and efficient tests of proficiency were applied 
before the degree of barrister was conferred, entitling the 
aspirant to practise as an advocate. "+ 

These inns were not endowed like the colleges of the 
universities. The students in the Inns of Chancery, called 
apprenticii simply, were often poor enough, but those of the 
Inns of Courts, called appi'enticii nobiliores, were expected to 
be able to spend 20 marks a year (about ;£i3), a considerable 
sum in those days. Roper (himself a lawyer) tells us that his 
uncle "was admitted to Lincoln's Inn with very small allowance, 
continuing there his study until he was made and accounted 
a worthy ' utter barrister ' ". He was admitted into the Society 
of Lincoln's Inn as a student on the 12th February, 1496, 
being then just eighteen years old, and received certain dispen- 
sations at the instance of his father.! The constitution and 
mode of procedure of the Inns in former times is thus described 

* Examinations have been instituted since Lord Campbell wrote. 

"Wife of Move. 

J Thomas More admissus est in Societ. 12 die Feb. a° supra dicto 
[1496] et pardonat. est quatuor vacaciones ad instantiam Johis More 
patris sui (Entry in the Register copied by Mr. Foss). 


by our legal antiquarians : " In England it is said that the word 
" barrister " arose from the arrangement of the halls of the 
different Inns of Court.* The benchers and readers, being 
the superiors of each house, occupied on public occasions of 
assembly the upper end of the hall, which was raised on a dais, 
and separated from the rest of the building by a bar. The next 
in degree were the utter barristers, who, after they had attained 
a certain standing, were called from the body of the hall to the 
bar {i.e., to the first place outside the bar), for the purpose of 
taking a principal part in the mootifigs or exercises of the house. 
The other members of- the inn took their places nearer to the 
centre of the hall, and from this manner of distribution appear 
to have been called inner barristers .+ The degree of utter 
barrister did not originally communicate any authority to plead 
in courts of justice. 

"The benchers annually chose from their own body two 
readers, whose duty it was to read openly to the Society in their 
public hall, at least twice in the year. On these occasions, 
which were observed with great solemnity, the reader selected 
some statute, which he made the subject of formal examination 
and discussion. Questions were then debated by the utter 
barristers with the reader, after which the judges and Serjeants, 
several of whom were usually present, pronounced their opinions 
separately upon the point that had been raised. The process 
of mooting in the Inns of Courts differed considerably from 
reading. On these occasions the reader of the inn for the 
time being, with two or more benchers, presided in the open 
hall. On each side of the bench table were two inner 
barristers, who declared in law French some kind of action, 
previously devised by them, and which always contained some 

* In France the word " barreau " has a different origin. The pleader in 
the court of justice was protected by a bar of wood or iron from the press 
of the crowd ; so also we speak of our " prisoner at the bar ". 

t The distinction no longer exists. 


nice and doubtful points of law, the one stating the case for the 
plaintiff and the other the case for the defendant. The points 
of law arising in this fictitious case were then argued by two 
utter barristers, after which the reader and the benchers closed 
the proceedings by declaring their opinions separately."* 

It seemed necessary to transcribe thus much for the intelli- 
gence of what is said about More's legal career by his biographers. 
We do not know the date of his call to the outer bar, nor when 
he was made a bencher. His legal education, however, lasted 
several years. Harpsfield says: "Utter barristers were not 
commonly made then but after many years' study. But this 
man's speedy and yet substantial profiting was such, that he 
enjoyed some prerogative of time." 

He acquired so great a reputation, that the governors of the 
Society of Lincoln's Inn appointed him "reader" or lecturer 
on the science of law at Furnivall's Inn, one of the Inns of 
Chancery dependent on their house ; and his lectures were so 
highly esteemed that his appointment was renewed three 
successive years, t 

Another course of lectures mentioned by his biographers 
seems to have had no connection with his profession. He 
gave lectures (no doubt in Latin) on the great work of St. 
Augustine called The City of God. These lectures were delivered 
in the Church of St. Lawrence, in the Old Jewry in London, 
and they were attended by the most learned men, among whom 
is especially mentioned his old Greek preceptor Grocyn.;]: It 

* Bohn's Standard Library Cyclopadia of Political Ktioivlcdgc, Art. 
Barrister. In one of his latest works, The Debcllacion of Salem v. 
Bysance, written in 1533, More writes: " I was waxen with the reading 
of his answer very merry, and waxen methought a young man again, 
and seemed set at a vacation mote with him in some Inn of Chancery, 
because of his proper cases of law " {English Works, p. 945). 

t Roper says, " Three years and more ". 

X Grocyn had been lecturing about that time in St. Paul's (see 
Seebohm, p. go). But Roper specially mentions him among More's 
auditors and admirers. Had Stapleton authority for saying that Grocyn's 
lectures were almost deserted for those of More ? 


is probable, indeed, that they were dehvered at his desire, as 
he was then the rector of that church. Though there are many 
examples of lay-preaching in the history of the Church, More's 
lectures had in no sense the character of sermons, nor were 
they lectures in theology, but in history and the Divine philo- 
sophy of history. They must have been elaborated with great 
care to be read before such an audience. Alas ! a beautiful 
and almost unique work has utterly perished. Not a fragment 
of these lectures has come down to us. 

The subject he had chosen confirms what Erasmus says : that 
More's legal studies did not prevent him from following his 
bent for literature ; nor did either law or letters turn his 
thoughts from heavenly things. He read the fathers and 
ecclesiastical writers carefully, and they made so deep an im- 
pression on him, that he hesitated for a considerable time about 
pursuing the career on which he had entered, and debated 
whether he should not rather become a priest or a religious. 

No part of More's life has been so much misunderstood as 
this. It will be necessary to disentangle modern comments 
from the original statements of those who had means of know- 
ing the truth. The words of Erasmus, his intimate friend and 
confidant, are these : " Meanwhile he applied his whole 
mind to exercises of piety, looking to and pondering on the 
priesthood in vigils, fasts, and prayers, and similar austerities. 
In which matter he proved himself far more prudent than most 
candidates, who thrust themselves rashly into that arduous pro- 
fession, without any previous trial of their powers. The one 
thing that prevented him from giving himself to that kind of 
life was that he could not shake off the desire of the married 
state. He chose, therefore, to be a chaste husband rather than 
an impure priest. " * 

Mr. Seebohm's commentary on this last phrase is as follows ; 
" That he did turn iti disgust from the impurity of the cloister 

* Erasm., Ep. 447. 


to the better chances which he thought the world offered of 
hving a chaste and useful life, we know from Erasmus".* 
Where does Erasmus say or hint any such thing? His words 
do not imply that in those days most priests were impure, any 
more than that most husbands were chaste. He merely says 
that Thomas More feared for himself, lest, perhaps, he might 
become an impure priest, not having the gift of perfect chastity, 
whereas he had good hope of living as a chaste husband. Eras- 
mus has not a word of JMore's turning with disgust from anything, 
but, on the contrary, he implies that he turned with regret from 
a state which he loved and reverenced, but to which he feared 
to aspire. 

Among the Jews " the fearful and faint-hearted " were ex- 
empt from military service. f Suppose, then, that someone, 
after due deliberation, had claimed this exemption ; and that 
his biographer, wishing to extol his prudence, in contrast with 
the vainglorious rashness of others, had recorded that " he 
preferred to remain a respectable citizen rather than to become 
a cowardly soldier". What should we think of some modern 
Jew-hating writer, who should interpret this to mean, that "he 
turned with disgust from the cowardice of the army to the 
better chance presented to him of living an honourable life 
under his own vine and fig-tree," and on such grounds should 
go on to declaim against the poltroonery of the army of the 
Hebrews ? 

Further on Mr. Seebohm says : *' More married . . . and 
gave up for ever all longings for monastic life ". % This is, of 
course, true as regards effectual longings, or injudicious and un- 
seasonable longings ; but, taken in what is apparently Mr. See- 
bohm's meaning — that More looked on himself as having 
escaped from a delusion and chosen the nobler part — the words 
are in curious contradiction with More's own words to his 

* Oxford Reformers, p. 151. t Dent. xx. 8. 

X Oxford Reformers, p. 160. 


daughter, from which we find that, to the end of his hfe, he 
never lost his longing for that state which he had sorrowfully 
renounced in youth. When Margaret visited him in the 
Tower, he said to her : " I believe, Meg, that they that have 
put me here ween they have done me a high displeasure, but I 
assure thee on my faith, mine own good daughter, if it had not 
been for my wife and ye that be my children, I would not have 
failed long ere this to have closed myself in as strait a room, 
and straiter, too.* Methinketh God maketh me a wanton, 
and setteth me on His lap, and dandleth me ; " so delighted 
was he to realise in his prison his old ideal of an austere and 
contemplative life.t 

Mr. Seebohm, recurring to the same idea elsewhere, says : 
'• What would have happened to More had he been left alone 
with misadvising friends — whether the cloister would have re- 
ceived him, as it did his friend, Whitford, afterwards, to be 
another '■wretch of Sion' — none can tell. Happily for him, it 
was at this critical moment that Colet came up to London.";}: 
These words seem to imply that Whitford, a Brigittine monk 
of Sion, near Isle worth, who, in his many ascetical books, 
called himself " The Wretch," implied thereby that he was 
disappointed and wretched in the modern sense of the word. 
Nothing can be farther from fact. His religious life was most 
happy : he was one of the few faithful against all Henry's 
menaces, and after the suppression, he persevered for many 
years, and till the end, in a mortified, prayerful, and solitary, 
but cheerful life. § If, then, we are to conjecture what would 

* I may mention it, as among the curiosities of literature, that Dr. 
Warner thinks More is here speaking of the grave, and that he meant 
that he would have committed suicide but for his wife and children ! 

t Margaret related this conversation to her husband, Roper, who has 
recorded it. 

X Oxford Reformers, p. 147. 

§ See his biography in Dom Raynal's ed. of Whitford's translation 
of the FolloK'iiiir of Clirist. 


have been the fate of More had he entered the cloister, it is 
not rash to think that he might have become a worthy colleague 
of his friend, Whitford, as a defender of the faith by his pen, 
and a confessor of it by his holy life ; or he might have been 
associated in martyrdom with another monk of the same house, 
Blessed Reginald or Reynolds, a man of the deepest learning 
and of incomparable sanctity, who was also one of his friends, 
and whose glorious death More looked on as the crown of his 
monastic virtues.* And, had he joined the Carthusians, we 
should probably be now honouring his name with the glorious 
band of Carthusians, victims of Henry's tyranny. With the 
Franciscans he would have stood with Peto and Elstow, or 
died with Forest. His name, however, was to stand apart in 
a glory quite distinct. 

Another of More's modern biographers, Lord Campbell, 
after relating his penances and deliberations as to becoming a 
Franciscan or Carthusian, says : " He found these (the pen- 
ances) after a time not edifying to his piety, and he, a rigid 
Roman Catholic, doubted the advantages supposed to be con- 
ferred on religion by the monastic orders, which a certain sec- 
tion of professing Protestants are now so eager to re-establish ". 

It was unworthy of Lord Chancellor Campbell, in writing 
the life of another Lord Chancellor, to pen a sentence, with a 
controversial purpose, for which there is not, either in the 
works of More or in any of his early biographers, the very 
slightest authority, and which may be refuted by innumerable 
passages in his printed books. The very first published by 

* Blessed Reynolds of St. John's College, Cambridge, was distinguished 
as a scholar in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He shed his blood for the 
faith \\ith the Carthusians on 4th May, 1535, at Tyburn. Erasmus, who 
knew him, says he was vii' angelica vnltn ct aiigelico spirifii, sanique 
judicii (Letter on deaths of More and Fisher). Cardinal Pole learnt 
from an eye-witness that such was the joy of his countenance when he 
placed his head in the fatal noose, that you would think it was the golden 
chain of knighthood {Dc Unit. EccL). 


him after his marriage was the Life of Pico, Cou7it of Mirandola. 
In many respects, More took this extraordinary man as his 
model, and reproduced his virtues as well as his talents. Of 
Pico's austerities he writes : " We know many men which (as 
St. Jerome saith) put forth their hand to poor folk, but with 
the pleasures of the flesh they be overcome ; but he many 
days, and, namely, those days which represent unto us the 
passion and death that Christ suffered for our sake, beat and 
scourged his own flesh in the contemplation of that great bene- 
fit, and for cleansing of his old offences. He was of cheer 
always merry, of so benign a nature that he was never troubled 
with anger," etc. Surely the man who wrote this, and imitated 
it to the letter, had not discovered that austerity was super- 

Of Pico's love of God More wrote : " Of outward observances 
he gave no very great force. We speak not of those obser- 
vances which the Church commandeth, for in those he was 
diligent ; but we speak of those ceremonies which folk bring 
up, setting the very service of God aside, who is (as Christ 
saith) to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. But in the in- 
ward affections of the mind he cleaved to God with very fervent 
love and devotion. . . . ' Nephew,' said he (on one occasion), 
' this will I show thee ; I warn thee keep it secret. The sub- 
stance that I have left, after certain books of mine finished, I 
intend to give out to poor people, and fencing myself with the 
crucifix, barefoot walking about the world, in every town and 
castle I purpose to preach of Christ.' Afterwards, as I under- 
stand, by the special commandment of God, he changed that 
purpose and appointed to profess himself in the Order of Friars 
Preachers." Could More have written thus or chosen these 
words for translation, had he himself turned in disgust from the 
impurity of the cloister, as Mr. Seebohm assures us; or come to 
doubt the advantages conferred on religion by the monastic 
orders, as l.ord Campbell afiirms ? 

It would be easy to (juote much stronger testimonies to 


More's esteem and love of religious orders from his later 
writings. But as it is thought by some that there was a re- 
action in his soul in favour of the Church on account of the 
violence of the Lutherans, I have preferred the above passages, 
taken from a work published by More in 15 lo, and probably 
composed or translated by him several years before. In the 
same book More gives an account of Savonarola's sermon at 
the death of Pico. More sj^eaks of Jerome Savonarola as " a 
Friar-Preacher of Ferrara, a man as well in cunning [i.e., learning] 
as holiness of living most famous ". This Friar Jerome, after 
great eulogy of Pico, had told the people that it had been 
revealed to him that his friend was in purgatory for his delay 
in entering a religious order. " Howbeit, not being kind [i.e.y 
grateful] enough for so great benefices of God, or called back 
by the tenderness of his flesh (as he was a man of delicate 
complexion), he shrank from the labour ; or, thinking, happily, 
that the religion had no need of him,* deferred it for a time. 
Howbeit this I speak only by conjecture. But for this delay I 
threatened him two years together that he would be punished 
if he forslothed that purpose which Our Lord had put in his 

It is almost incredible that Mr. Seebohm could, after reading 
the above, have written the following lines : " Pico's Works in 
More's translation present to the mind a type of Christianity so 
opposite to the ceremonial and external religion of the monks, 
that one may well cease to wonder that More, having caught 
the spirit of Pico's rehgion, could no longer entertain any notion 
of becoming a Carthusian brother ". f With the writings of 
Dionysius, the Carthusian, accessible to him, of Thomas 
a Kempis, or even of Whitford, the wretch of Sion, Mr. See- 

* The Latin has arbitratiis ejus opera religioncm indigcrc — " that re- 
ligion required his services," i.e., the welfare of religion in the world. 
More puts in a negative, and takes the word religion technically, i.e., 
the state of religion, or the Dominican Order. 

t Oxford Reformers, p. 153. 


bohm must be indeed mastered by prejudice to sneer at the 
external religion of the monks, and contrast it with solid piety. 
In any case, according to More's views of the Gospel, the 
worship of God in spirit and in truth was drawing on Pico to 
the religious state when he died. 

How was it, then, it will l^e asked, that, with all More's 
admiration for the religious state, and attraction towards it, he 
still resolved finally not to embrace it ? It was because he had 
not that indication of (jod's vocation which he supposes Pico 
to have received. Erasmus told the truth somewhat bluntly, 
as he heard it from More himself: he feared to become an im- 
pure priest, and determined to become a chaste husband. 
This was a matter for More himself and his confessor, and is 
one that scarcely admits of our discussion. It would seem 
however, from Stapleton's words, that More would often say in 
later life that he had exaggerated the difficulties of a life of 
celibacy. His decision was at least guided by perfect humility, 
and not by the insane pride and contempt of others with which 
some of his modern biographers would burden him.* 

Even Sir James Mackintosh, whose biography of More is 
distinguished both by candour and insight, has not disentangled 
himself from Protestant prejudices in writing on this episode of 

* Those who wish to weigh this matter may find the materials in the 
following passages : Cum aetas ferret non abhorruit (Morus) a puellarum 
amoribus, sed citra infamiam, et sic ut oblatis magis frueretur quam 
captatis, et animo mutuo caperetur potius quam coitu [Erasiiiiis ad 

Meditabatur adolescens sacerdotium cum suo Lilio. Religionis etiam 
propositum ardenter desiderans, Minoritarum institutum arripere cogita- 
bat. Sed quum exercitiis illis pradictis adhibitis, motus carnis qui in 
juventutis flore et ardore accidere solent, evincere non posse sibi videre- 
tur, uxorem ducere instituit. Solebat h^ec ille postea narrare non sine 
magna animi tristitia et mcerore ; dicebatque multo esse facilius legem 
carnis in coelibatu vincere quam in matrimonio. Quod sane Apostolicis 
illis verbis conforme est: Tribulationem tamen carnis habebunt hujus- 
modi (Stapleton, T. Mori Vita, cap. 2). 


his life. "The same afifectionate disposition," he says, 
" which had driven More towards the visions and, strange 
as it may seem, to the austerities of the monks, now sought a 
more natural element." What word of More's, what word of 
any of his biographers, can have suggested that More was 
either driven or drawn towards visions ? There are doubtless 
visions sent by God, as every reader of the Old or the New 
Testament must know — St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, 
explained that a new era had begun, one of the characteris- 
tics of which should be that "young men should see visions".* 
Yet the desire to see visions has never been counted among 
the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and Sir Thomas More was the 
last to covet them. His passion for austerities, on the other 
hand, was a real one, and survived his marriage, though it was 
controlled by discretion. 

Sir James also writes : " He soon learnt, by self-examina- 
tion, his unfitness for the priesthood, and relinquished his 
project of taking orders, in words which should have warned 
his church against the imposition of unnatural self-denial on 
vast multitudes and successive generations of men ". The 
words alluded to are no doubt those of Erasmus, but even if 
they express More's view, that certainly involved no condemna- 
tion of the discipline of celibacy, which More has warmly 
defended in more than one treatise. His prudent conduct is 
a warning to bishops " not to impose hands lightly," and to 
candidates " to consider again and again the work they 
undertake and the burden laid upon them ". f 

Perhaps on the subject of More's austerities and vocation, 
some will be better disposed to listen to the words of a 
married man. I will, therefore, let his great-grandson, Cresacre 
More, relate with his own reflections the facts that he had 
gathered from Stapleton : "When he was about eighteen or 
twenty years old, finding his body, by reason of his years, most 

* Acts ii. 17. t Words of the Pontifical. 


rebellious, he sought diligently to tame his unbridled con- 
cupiscence by wonderful works of mortification. He used 
oftentimes to wear a sharp shirt of hair next his skin, which 
he never left off wholly — no, not when he was Lord Chancellor 
of England. . . . He used also much fasting and watching, 
lying often either upon the bare ground or upon some bench, 
or laying some log under his head, allotting himself but four or 
five hours in a night at the most for his sleep, imagining, with 
the holy saints of Christ's Church, that his body was to be 
used like an ass, with strokes and hard fare, lest provender 
might prick it, and so bring his soul like a headlong jade into 
the bottomless pit of hell. For chastity, especially in youth, 
is a lingering martyrdom, and these are the best means to 
preserve her from the dangerous gulf of evil custom. But he 
is the best soldier in this fight that can run fastest away from 
himself, this victory being hardly gotten with striving. 

"He had inured himself to straightness that he might the 
better enter the narrow gate of heaven, which is not got with 
ease ; sed violejiti ?-apiu?it ilbid— that is to sa)', they that are 
boisterous against themselves bear it away by force. For 
this cause he lived for four years amongst the Carthusians, 
dwelling near the Charterhouse, frequenting daily their spiritual 
exercises, but without any vow. He had an earnest desire 
also to be a Franciscan friar, that he might serve God in a 
state of perfection ; but, finding that at that time religious men 
in England had somewhat degenerated from their ancient 
strictness and fervour of spirit, he altered his mind. * 

* The relaxation, not the immorality, of the religious orders is here 
assigned by Cresacre as the reason of his ancestor's decision ; but 
Erasmus says that his one and only obstacle was in himself. In fact, 
there was no such paucity of fervent religious among the Carthusians 
and the Observant Franciscans — the two orders to which he had been 
attracted — as to give rise to any difficulty on that score. Cresacre has 
put down as a fact what Stapleton merely advanced as a conjecture. In 
this he has been imitated by Mr. Walter. But Mr. Seebohm is not justified 


" He had also after that, together with his faithful companion, 
Lilly, a purpose to be a priest, yet God had allotted him for 
another estate, not to live solitary, but that he might be a 
pattern to married men : how they should carefully bring up 
their children, how dearly they should love their wives, how 
they should employ their endeavour wholly for the good of 
their country, yet excellently perform the virtues of religious men, 
as piety, charity, humility, obedience and conjugal chastity." 

The subject that has been under discussion in this chapter 
makes it opportune to ask what was the attitude of More to- 
wards the priesthood during the rest of his life. One who has 
been disenchanted in his ideal, or disappointed in his aspira- 
tions, often looks with disgust on his shattered idol, and with 
anger on his wasted enthusiasm. We find nothing whatever of 
this in More. He forms a perfectly calm and equable judgment. 
" As for any partial favour that I bear to the clergy," writes 
More, " I never said that they were all faultless, nor I never 
excused their faults. As I loved and honoured the good, so 
was I not slack in providing for the correction of those that were 
bad and slanderous to their own order. Which sort had at my 
hand so little favour, that there was no man into whose hands 
they were more loth to come."* 

In another place he writes on the subject as follows : '' I wot 
well, the whole world is so wretched that spiritual and temporal 
everywhere all be bad enough ; God make us all better I But 
yet, for that I have myself seen, and by credible folk have 
heard, like as ye say by our temporality (i.e., of the laity) that 
we be as good and honest as anywhere else, so dare I boldly 

in saying that " More's Catholic biographers have acknowledged that 
he turned in disgust from the impurity of the cloister to the better 
chances which he thought the world offered of living a chaste and 
useful life ". Neither Erasmus nor Stapleton, nor Cresacre More, nor 
Walter, nor any other Catholic writer, has acknowledged or suggested 
any such thing. 

* English Works^ p. 868 {Apology, chap. x.). 


say that the spirituality of England, and specially that j)art in 
which ye find most fault — that is, to wit, that part which we 
commonly call the secular clergy — is, in learning and honest 
living, well able to match, and (saving the comparisons be 
odious) I would say further, far able to overmatch, numljer for 
number, the spirituality of any nation Christian. I wot well 
there be therein many very lewd and naught ; and surely, 
wheresoever there is a multitude, it is not without miracle well 
possible to be otherwise. But now, if the bishops would once 
take unto priesthood better laymen and fewer, for of us be they 
made, all the matter were more than half amended. 

'' Now, where ye say that ye see more vice in them than in 
ourselves, truth it is that everything in them is greater, because 
they be more bounden to be better. But else the things that 
they missdo be the selfsame that we sin in ourselves, which 
vices that, as ye say, we see more in them than in ourselves, the 
cause is (I suppose), for we look more upon theirs than on 
our own, and fare, as ^"Esop saith in a faille, that every man 
carrieth a double wallet on his shoulder, and into the one that 
hangeth at his breast he putteth other folk's faults, and therein 
he looketh and poreth often. In the other he layeth up all his 
own and swingeth it at his back, which himself never listeth to 
look in, but other that come after him cast an eye into it among 
(i.e., sometimes). 

" Would God we were all of the mind that every man 
thought no man so bad as himself, for that were the way to 
mend both them and us. Now they blame us and we blame 
them, and both blameworthy, and either part more ready to 
find other's faults than to mend their own. For in reproach of 
them we be so studious that neither good nor bad passeth 
unreproved. If they be familiar we call them light ; if they be 
solitary we call them fantastic ; if they be sad {i.e., serious) we 
call them solemn ; if they be merry we call them mad ; if they 
be holy we call them hypocrites ; if they keep few servants we 
call them niggards ; if they keep many we call them pompous ; 



if a lewd priest do a lewd deed, then we say : ' Lo, see what 
example the clergy giveth us ! ' as though that priest were the 
clergy. But then forget we to look what good men be therein, 
and what good counsel they give us, and what good ensample 
they show us. But we fare as do the ravens and the carrion 
crows, that never meddle with any quick (i.e., live) flesh ; but 
where they may find a dead dog in a ditch thereto they flee, 
and thereon they feed apace." 

" Undoubtedly," he concludes, " if the clergy be nought, we 
must needs be worse, as I heard once Master Colet, the good 
dean of Paul's, preach. For he said that it can be none other, 
but that we (i.e., the laity) must ever be one degree under 
them. For surely (as he said) it can be no lie that Our Saviour 
saith Himself, which saith of them that they be the salt of the 
earth ; and if the salt once appall, the world must need wax 
unsavoury. And He saith that they be the light of the world ; 
and then if the light, saith He, be darked, how dark will then 
the darkness be — that is, to wit, all the world beside, whereof He 
called the clergy only the light ? " * 

More, however, spoke out very strongly on that which was 
the principal abuse of the Church in England in those days — 
indiscriminate ordination. His friend and director, Colet, had 
made this the main subject of his cona'o ad cleriim before the 
Convocation in 15 12. In Barclay's poetical translation of the 
" Ship of Fools," which appeared about the same time, the 
matter was thus sturdily handled : — 

The cause why so many priestis lacketh wit 

Is in you bishops, if I durst truth express, 
Which not consider what men that ye admit 

Of living, cunning, person, and godliness. 
But who so ever himself thereto will dress 

If an angel t be his broker to the scribe, 
He is admitted, howbeit he be witless ; 

Thus sold is priesthood for an unhappy bribe. X 

* English Works, p. 225. [Dialogue, Bk. iii. ch. 11.) 
t A coin worth los. bearing the effigy of an angel. 
Ij: Of the abusionof the Spirituality. 


Following in the track of these authors, Sir Thomas wrote in 
his Dialogue, pubhshed in 1528 : " ' Verily, were all the bishops 
of my mind, as I know some that be, ye should not of priests 
have the plenty that ye have. . . . Gold would we not set by if 
it were as common as chalk or clay. And whereof is there now 
such plenty as of priests ? . . . The time was when few men 
durst presume to take upon them the high office of priest, not 
even when they were chosen and called there unto. Now 
runneth every rascal and boldly offereth himself for able. 
And where the dignity passeth all princes, and they that lewd 
be desire it for worldly winning, yet cometh that sort thereto 
with such a mad mind that they reckon almost God much 
bounden to them that they vouchsafe to take it. But were I 

Pope ' ' By my soul,' quoth he, ' I would ye were, and my 

lady, your wife, Popess too 1 ' ' Well,' quoth I, ' then should 
she devise for nuns. And as for me, touching the choice of 
priests, I could not well devise better provisions than are by 
the laws of the Church provided already, if they were as well 
kept as they be well made. ' 

" ' But for the number, I would surely see such a way therein 
that we should not have such a rabble ; that every mean man 
must have a priest in his house to wait upon his wife, which 
no man almost lacketh now, to the contempt of priesthood in 
as vile office as his horse keeper!'* 'That is,' quoth he, 
' truth indeed, and worse too, for they keep+ hawks and dogs, 
and yet me seemeth surely a more honest service to wait on a 
horse than on a dog.' ' And yet I suppose,' quoth I, ' if the 
laws of the Church, which Luther and Tindall would have all 
broken, were all well observed and kept, this gear should not 
be thus, but the number of priests would be much minished, 
and the remnant much the better. For it is by the laws of the 
Church provided, to the intent no priest should (unto the 
slander of priesthood) be driven to live in such lewd manner 

* i.c.^ till he looks on the priest's office as no better than an ostler's. 
i* i.e., tend, take care of. 


or worse, there should none be admitted unto priesthood 
until he have a title of a sufficient yearly living, either of his 
own patrimony or otherwise. Nor at this day they be none 
otherwise accepted.' ' Why,' quoth he, ' wherefore go there 
then so many of them a-begging ? ' ' Marry,' quoth I, ' for 
they delude the law and themselves also. For they never 
have grant of a living that may serve them in sight for that 
purpose, but they secretly discharge it ere they have it, or else 
they could not get it. And thus the bishop is blinded by the 
sight of the writing, and the priest goeth a-begging, for all his 
grant of a good living and the law is deluded, and the order is 
rebuked, by the priest's begging and lewd living, which either is 
fain to walk at rovers and live upon trentals * or worse, or else 
to serve in a secular man's house, which should not need if 
this gap were stopped.' " f 

After these serious words we may, after More's own fashion, 
sum up the matter with one of his own jests : " .'^sop telleth a 
fable of a poor old man, which, bearing up a hill a burden of 
bushes in his neck, panting for weariness, in the midway laid 
down his burden and sat him down and sighed, and waxed so 
weary of his life that he wished and called for death. Where- 
upon Death came anon readily toward him and asked him, 
* What wilt thou with me ? ' But when the poor fellow saw 
that lean whoreson there so ready, ' I called you, sir,' quoth 
he, ' to pray you do so much for me as help me up again with 
this bitched burden '. So ween I that, for all our words, if 
that easy life and wealthy that is in religion were offered us, as 
weary as we be of wedding, we would rather abide all our old 
pain abroad than in a cloister take a religious man's life for 

* To become a tramp, and to get a trental (or 30 days' masses) here 
and there. 

t English Works, 227, 8. 

J lb., p. 884 {Apology, ch. xxii.). 



THE question of vocation appears to have been debated by 
More during several years, before it was finally closed 
by his marriage. Before speaking of that event, I must 
go back and try to arrange what has been recorded of his early 
manhood. Unfortunately his first biographers give us very few 
dates ; and while we are able to determine some events from 
known history, there are a few of which the exact time must 
be left to conjecture. He must, then, have left Oxford at the early 
age of sixteen.* After having spent some time, probably two 
years, at New Inn, he was entered as a student at Lincoln's 
Inn in February, 1496, being just eighteen. We know that in 
the spring of 1504, when he was twenty-six, he became a mem- 
ber of Parliament, and he married some time in the year 1505. 
His biographers tell us that he resided for four years near the 
Charter-House. These were almost certainly the years that 
immediately preceded his marriage. A letter of Erasmus, 
dated 12th April, mentions that More is in Lincoln's Inn. 
The year to which this letter belongs is fixed by a reference 
to his work called the Adagia being then in the press and to 
appear after Easter. The work came out in 1501.! 

* He did not remain to take any degree, and it was no very unusual 
thing for youths of fourteen or fifteen to proceed to the universities. I 
cannot see any likelihood, however, that a youth of that age would have 
been admitted to the society of Colet or of Grocyn, as Mr. Seebohm has 

t Letter 29. The Leyden editor has affixed the year 1498 erro- 


So much will have to be said of Erasmus in connection with 
More, that it is worth while to investigate here the beginnings 
of their acquaintance. A ridiculous tale has got into circulation, 
which places the earliest interview between More and Erasmus 
when the former was chancellor.* It is enough to say that 
they had been the dearest of friends for more than thirty years. 
Erasmus first came to England in 1497 on a visit to William 
Blount, Lord Mountjoy, w^ho had been his pupil in Paris. It 
was probably at his house that he met young More. After a 
short stay in London he went to Oxford. From a letter written 
by Erasmus from Oxford on 28th October, 1499 (o^ 149^)5 ^^'^ 
find that they were already corresponding as dear friends. " I 
have poured curses on the letter-carrier, by whose laziness or 
treachery I fancy it must be that I have been disappointed of 
the most eagerly expected letters of my dear More {Afori inei). 

* A Book of Pleasant Talcs and Stories relates the matter as 
follows: "Sir T. More being at my Lord Mayor's table, word was 
brought him that a foreigner inquired for his Lordship (he being then 
Lord Chancellor). They having well-nigh dined, the Lord Mayor 
ordered one of his officers to take the gent into his care and give him 
what he best liked. The officer took Erasmus into the Lord Mayor's 
cellar, where he chose to eat oysters, and drank wine drawn into a 
leathern jack and poured into a silver cup. x\s soon as Erasmus had 
well refreshed himself he was introduced to Sir T. More. At his first 
coming in he saluted Sir Thomas in Latin. Sir Thomas, having never 
seen him before, asked him, Unde vcuis ? (Whence do you come ?). Eras- 
mus answered, Ex infcris (from the lower regions), which has three 
meanings — the Netherlands, the cellar, and hell. Sir Thomas : Quid 
ibi agitiir ? (What is done there ?). Erasmus : Vivis vcsciintur et bibiint 
ex ocrcis (They feed on the living and drink out of boots). Sir Thomas : 
An VIC noscis ? (Do you know me?). Erasmus: Aut tn cs Morns ant 
nnllus (You are More or no one). Sir Thomas : Et tn cs ant Dens 
aut demon ant mens Erasmus (You are either God or the devil or 
my own Erasmus). In another story they first met at table without 
introduction and got into debate about the Real Presence. Erasmus put 
forward sceptical arguments, and More defended the Catholic Faith. At 
last Erasmus exclaimed : A?it tn cs Morns ant mil Ins ; and More retorted : 
Ant tn cs Erasmns ant diabolns. 


For that you have failed on your part I neither want nor ought to 
suspect, though I expostulated with you most vehemently in my 
last letter. . . . Adieu, my most delightful More (Vale^Juam- 
dissinie Jfore)." More was then twenty-one, Erasmus about ten 
years older. In a letter (to be quoted later) Erasmus describes 
the beauty, or rather the charm, of his person, only surpassed 
by the grace of his manners and disposition. Jacobus Battus 
tells how Erasmus, returning to the Continent in January, 1500, 
from his first visit to England, spoke with enthusiasm of the 
kindness of Prior Richard Charnock, the erudition of Colet, 
and the sweetness of More {suavitatem^.'^ In another letter 
Erasmus says : T/ionue Mori i/igenio quid iinquani fiiixit naUira 
vel 7jwllius vel dulcius vel felicius ? {Ep. 14). "Did Nature 
ever frame a sweeter, happier character than that of More ?" t 
It speaks much for both More and Erasmus that these terms 
of admiration and endearment continue to the end. In the 
interests of truth, I must declare at the outset that I cannot 
find the very slightest foundation for the assertion of Stapleton, 
copied by Cresacre More and many others, that in the course 
of time their friendship cooled. Abundant proofs of the con- 
trary will appear as we proceed. 

In giving an account of his various writings, Erasmus has 
related an event that illustrates the life of More at this epoch : 
" I composed a heroic poem on the praise of Henry VII. and 
of his children, and of Britain. It was only a three days' task, 
yet it was a task, for it was some years since I had written or 
even read a poem. It was partly shame and partly pain that 
drew this from me. Thomas More, who, while I was staying in 
the country house of Mountjoy, had paid me a visit, took me out 
for a walk, to a neighbouring village. There all the king's 
children, except Arthur, the eldest, were being educated. When 
we reached the Hall the attendants ifofa poinpd) both of that 
house and of Lord Moimtjoy's were assembled. In the midst 

* Ep. 62. t Ep. 14. Dec. 5, 1497 (or rather 1498). 


Stood Henry, then nine years old, yet already with a royal 
bearing, betokening a certain loftiness of mind joined with 
singular condescension. At his right was Margaret, about 
eleven years old. She afterwards married James, King of the 
Scots. At his left in play was Mary, four years old. Edmund, 
an infant, was carried by the nurse. More with his friend 
Arnold,* after saluting Prince Henry, presented him with I 
know not what writing. As I was entirely taken by surprise I 
had nothing to offer, and I was obliged to make a promise that 
I would write something to show my respect. I was somewhat 
vexed with More for not warning me, and especially so since 
the prince while we were dining sent me a note asking some 
fruit of my pen. I went home and in spite of the Muses, from 
whom I had long been separated, I finished my poem within 
three days." t 

The date of this incident is fixed by the mention of Prince 
Edmund, who was born on Feb. 21, 1499. Erasmus, therefore, 
previous to leaving England in January, 1500, had gone to take 
leave of his former pupil, Lord Mountjoy. That nobleman 
had studied under the direction of the Dutch scholar in Paris ; 
he was now beginning his political career and had lately married. 
Erasmus relates that at the desire of Mountjoy he had under- 
taken to write a "declamation" for and against the desirability of 
taking a wife. When he had finished the first part he showed 
it to his young patron, who read it carefully. " How do you 
like it?" said the author. "So much that you have 
thoroughly persuaded me to marry," replied Mountjoy. 
"Stay," said Erasmus, "till you see what I have to say on 
the other side." " No," replied the young man, " that part will 
do for you ; what you have written suits me exactly." When 
Erasmus wrote this in 1524, Mountjoy had buried his third 
wife, and is sure, says Erasmus, to take a fourth if he lives.;]: 

* Another young lawyer. 

fEpist. ad Butzhcmum, written in Feb. 1524, 5. X lb. 


When Erasmus heard that the merciless tyrant Henry had 
placed on a pole on London Bridge the parboiled head of 
his " most sweet," " most delightful," his " darling " More, 
how must the horror as well as the pathos of the thought have 
been increased by the memory of that pretty scene in the Royal 
nursery, where he had the first glimpse of Henry and took note 
of his princely affability ! [hinnanifas). Whether this was 
More's first acquaintance with Prince Henry we are not told. 
It may have been such, and it seems likely that the little plot 
was arranged by Lord JMountjoy, not to get Erasmus into a 
scrape, but to bring about an introduction that might be useful 
to him in later years, when Henry should have become a prince 
of the Church, which before his brother's death was considered 
his probable destiny. As it was, the young prince, by having 
seen Erasmus, came to take a natural interest in his writings, 
by the aid of which he tried, not altogether unsuccessfully, to 
form for himself a good Latin style. At a later period Henry 
sought to attach him to his court and bestowed some not very 
royal largesse. 

At that court More was to spend the best part of his life, 
but, as we have already seen, he was as yet undecided, and was 
by no means eager to lay hold of the wheel of fortune. Indeed 
his first step in public life was more calculated to ruin himself 
and others, than to lead to wealth or honour. The matter 
is thus related by Roper : " In the time of King Henry the 
Seventh, More was made a burgess of the Parliament wherein 
was demanded by the king (as I have heard reported) about 
three-fifteenths, for the marriage of his eldest daughter, that 
then should be Scottish Queen : at the last debating whereof 
he made such arguments and reasons against, that the king's 
demands were thereby overthrown. So that one of the king's 
privy chaniber, named M. Tyler, being present thereat, brought 
word to the king out of the Parliament house that a beardless 
boy had disappointed all his purpose. \Miereupon the king, 
conceiving great indignation towards him, could not be satisfied 


until he had some way revenged it. And forasmuch as he, 
nothing having, nothing could lose, his Grace devised a cause- 
less quarrel against his father, keeping him in the Tower till he 
had made him pay a hundred pounds' fine. 

" Shortly hereupon it fortuned that this Sir Thomas More,* 
coming in a suit to Dr. Fox, Bishop of Winchester, one of the 
king's privy council, the bishop called him aside, and pre- 
tended great favour towards him, and promised that if he would 
be ruled by him he would not fail but bring him into the king's 
favour again, meaning, as it afterwards appeared, to cause 
him thereby to confess his offence against the king, whereby 
his Highness might with the better colour have occasion to 
revenge his displeasure against him. But when he came from 
the bishop, he fell in communication with one Mr. Whitford, 
his familiar friend, then chaplain to that bishop, and afterwards 
a father of Sion, and showed him what the bishop had said 
to him, desiring to hear his advice therein ; who, for the 
Passion of God, prayed him in no wise to follow his counsel : 
'for my lord,' quoth he, 'to serve the king's turn, will not 
stick to agree to his own father's death '. So Sir Thomas 
]\lore returned to the bishop no more ; and had not the king 
soon after died, he was determined to have gone over sea, 
thinking that being in the king's indignation, he could not 
live in England without great danger." 

The Parliament in which the events thus related occurred 
was that called in the spring of 1504. No returns can now 
be found to tell us what borough More represented, t nor has 
any of his biographers supplied the name. There was nothing 

* Called Sir by anticipation. 

■\- There were seven parliaments in the reign of Henry VII., but for 
none of them have returns been found (see Parliamentary Blue Book, 
called " Parliaments of England," 1879, being a Return to Order of 
House of Lords of 1877). Bishop Stubbs, in his Lictitrcs on Mcd'uvval 
and Modern History, discusses the financial matters of the reign of 
Henry VII. p. 356, sqq. 


factious or unreasonable in More's character, and he must have 
felt strongly on the subject of the king's avarice, to lead the 
opposition as he did. It will be remembered that under 
the advice of Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, 
Barons of the Exchequer, the king was at that time rousing 
the whole nation to so great a pitch of exasperation by his 
exactions and the unjust expedients to which he resorted, 
that his advisers both suffered the penalty of death at the 
beginning of the next reign. Several of the citizens of 
London had suffered in their goods or liberty ; and it is 
probable that More was their parliamentary representative. 
The treatment of John More is a specimen of what was 
happening to hundreds. There was never wanting a pre- 
text to throw into prison, at the accusation of an informer, any 
official or prominent person ; and, as the accused felt sure of 
condemnation by a packed jury if he came to trial, he was glad 
to purchase freedom by payment of a fine. The very preachers 
in the pulpits were admonishing Henry, and protesting against 
what was going on.* As More could not remedy these evils, 
he thought it at least his duty to make a stand against exces- 
sive generosity to such a king. By his influence the grant was 
reduced from ;^i 13,000, which would have been the product 
of the three-fifteenths demanded, to ^3o,ooo.t Dudley had 
been Speaker in this Parliament. Stapleton relates that, when 
some years later he was condemned to death, ^Nlore visited 
him in prison, and asked him whether he had not acted well 
in resisting the exaction. " Yes ! " replied Dudley, " and God 
was with you that you confessed no fault against the king. 
Had you done so, you would have paid the penalty with your 

* Hall's Chronicle. 

t See Seebohm, p. 145, and Lingard's account of the last years of 
Henry VH. Lingard, however, only mentions this parliamentary grant 
in a note, and has no reference to More, or to the demand of the three- 


Roper has mentioned More's project of seeking security on 
the Continent. We know from his own statement that he did 
in fact cross the sea, whether to make a tour, as was the custom 
with young gentlemen, as Stapleton supposes, or to choose a 
place of retirement, is uncertain. In 1515 he wrote a letter to 
Martin Dorpius, in which he thus mentions this visit : — 

" What esteem you have for our English universities I do 
not know. You seem to set so much by Louvain and Paris, 
that, as regards dialectics at least, you think they are banished 
from the rest of the world. Now, seven years ago I was in both 
those universities, and though not for a very long time, yet I took 
pains to ascertain what was taught there and what methods 
were followed. Though I respect both of them, yet neither 
from what I then saw, nor from what I have since heard, have I 
found any reason why, even in dialectics, I should wish any 
sons of mine (for whom I desire the very best education) to be 
taught there rather than at Oxford or Cambridge." 

This letter is dated October, 15 15. The visit, therefore, to 
France and Flanders must have been in 1508, before the death 
of Henry VII., but subsequent to his own marriage. 

Before we come to that turning-point of his life something 
must be said of a few of his other friends. One of these was 
William Lilly, a young man who, after his course at Oxford, 
had gone to Rhodes, and resided there some years for the study 
of Greek.* Similarity of taste drew him and More closely to- 
gether. More perfected himself in Creek by Lilly's deeper 
knowledge, and in his turn imparted to Lilly some of his 
own ardent piety. They exercised and amused themselves by 
translating into Latin verse epigrams from the Greek Antho- 
logia. Their respective translations were printed in juxtaposi- 
tion in the Pi'ogymfiastica Thomcc Mori et Gulielmi Lilii 
SodaliuiiiA A few years later Lilly became head master of St. 

* Rhodes was then in the possession of the Knights of St. John. 
+ They will be noticed in Chapter VII. 


Paul's School, and his name was long known to every educated 
youth in England by the Latin grammar which he composed. 

In the last chapter mention was twice made of Dr. Colet, 
Dean of St. Paul's — by Mr. Seebohm, as of one who appeared 
opportunely to rescue More from the fate into which his ill- 
advised enthusiasm for the priesthood was hurrying him, and 
by More himself, as of one who inspired him with the veneration 
for the priesthood which he had just explained and defended. 
Colet, like More, was a Londoner by birth, and an Oxford 
student. He was a man of considerable learning, of great 
zeal, especially as a preacher, but he was pre-eminently a man 
of character fitted to influence others. His determination may 
sometimes have been pushed into obstinacy and contentious- 
ness. More, who loved and admired him greatly, notes this 
foible in a letter to Erasmus : " Colet is busy at Greek, using 
the occasional help of my Clements. I believe he will persevere 
and succeed, especially if you urge him from Louvain. Yet, 
perhaps you had better leave him to his own impulse. You 
know how, out of a certain disputatiousness, he resists those 
who urge him, even though they are only persuading him to 
that on which he was already bent." * 

It is possible, though not certain, that Colet had made the 
acquaintance of More when they were both at Oxford, though 
Colet was ten or eleven years older, and a lecturer in Holy 
Scripture when More was merely a student in arts. At a later 
period Colet used to say that More was the one genius of whom 
Britain could then boast, and Erasmus, who quotes tlie words, 
remarks that Colet was a man of keen and accurate 
judgment. This eminent man More had chosen as hii con- 
fessor. At what period he placed himself under his spiritual 
guidance we are not told. Erasmus, who knew Colet'; life and 
opinions thoroughly, mentions his sentiments regarding the 
confessional : " He had the utmost esteem for secret confession, 
and used to say that from no practice did he derive so much 

* Inter Epist. Erasm. App. 25 (25th F"eb., 1516). 


consolation and spiritual profit ; but he was equally opposed to 
scrupulous confessions and constant repetitions ".* 

If he loved a delicate but disliked a timid and feeble 
conscience, in More he would find one after his own heart, 
and from their spiritual intercourse there grew up an intimate 
and lasting friendship. 

Stapleton has preserved a letter written by More to Dr. Colet. 
The Latin is evidently the original work of More, and not due 
to Stapleton. It is probable that a rough copy came into the 
hands of one of More's secretaries, who communicated it to 
More's biographer : — 

" I was walking up and down the law courts when your ser- 
vant met me. I was delighted at seeing him, both because I 
have always been fond of him, and still more because I thought 
he had not come [to London] without you. But when I learnt, 
not only that you had not returned, but were not to return for 
a considerable time, I was as greatly dejected. What can be 
more distressing to me than to be deprived of your most dear 
society, after being guided by your wise counsels, cheered by 
your charming familiarity, assured by your earnest sermons, 
and helped forward by your example, so that I used to obey 
your very look or nod ? With these helps I felt myself 
strengthened, but without them I seem to languish. Follow- 
ing your guidance, I had escaped almost from the jaws of hell ; 
now, like Euridice, I know not by what force I am being drawn 
back into darkness. Euridice, however, suffered this violence 
because of the presence of Orpheus ; I, because of your absence. 
W^hat is there in the city to incite to virtue ? On the contrary, 
when one wishes to live well, by a thousand devices and seduc- 
tions the life of a city drags one down. False love and flattery 

* Ut confessionem secretam vehementer probabat, negans se ulla ex re 
capere tantumdem consolationis ac boni spiritus, ita anxiam ac subinde 
repetitam vehementer damnabat {Epist. 435). Though Erasmus in this 
is probably speaking of Colet's principles as a penitent, they would of 
course guide him also as a confessor. 


on the one side ; on the other, hatreds and quarrels and legal 
wranglings. One sees nothing but butchers, fishmongers, cooks, 
confectioners, fishermen, fowlers, ministering to the appetites of 
the body, and to the world and its prince, the devil. AMiy, the 
very houses intercept a great part of the light, and prevent one 
from seeing the heavens. It is not the horizon * that bounds 
the prospects, but the roofs of the houses. So I do not blame 
you that you are not yet tired of the country, where you see the 
simple country folk, ignorant of city tricks ; and, wherever you 
turn your eyes, the beautiful landscape refreshes, the fresh air 
exhilarates, and the sight of heaven delights you. You see 
nothing but the kind gifts of nature, and the holy impressions 
of innocence. Still, I would not have you so captivated by 
these charms as not to hasten back to us as soon as possible. 
For if you dislike the town, yet your country parish of Stepney, 
for which also you must be solicitous, will afford you as many 
attractions as the place where you now are : and from thence 
)ou can now and then pass into the city, where you will find a 
great field of merit. In the country, men are, of their own 
nature, harmless — or, at least, not involved in such enormous 
crimes —so that the hand of an ordinary physician will suffice 
for them ; whereas, in the city, both on account of the multi- 
tude of the diseases and their inveteracy, no physician but the 
most skilled can do any good. 

"There come sometimes into the pulpit of St. Paul's some 
who i^romise health ; yet, when they seem to have preached 
beautifully, their life is so contrary to their words that they 
irritate our wounds rather than cure them. For they cannot 
persuade us to believe them fit to have the cure of other men's 
diseases entrusted to them when they are themselves more sick 
than any. No ; we get angry, and refuse to allow our wounds 
to be touched by those whose own wounds are ulcers. But if, 
as naturalists afiirm, the physician in whom the patient has 

* dpi^wuos ille circulus. 


perfect confidence is the one likely to cure, there is no doubt 
that there is no one more Jit than yourself to undertake the 
cure of this whole city. How ready all are to put themselves 
in your hands — to trust and obey you — you have already found 
by experience, and at the present time their longing and eager 
desire proves. 

" Come, then, my dear Colet, even for the sake of your 
Stepney, which laments your long absence as an infant does 
its mother's ; come for the sake of [London] your native place, 
which merits your care no less than do your parents. Lastly, 
though this is but a feeble motive, let your regard for me move 
you, since I have given myself entirely to you, and am awaiting 
your return full of solicitude. Meanwhile I shall pass my time 
with Grocyn, Linacre and our friend Lilly : the first of whom 
is, as you know, the only director of my life in your absence ; 
the second, the master of my studies ; the third, my most dear 
companion. Farewell, and continue to love me as you do. — 
From London, the loth November." 

As Colet resigned the cure of Stepney on 21st September, 
1505, this letter could not have been written later than 1504, 
nor can it have an earlier date, since only in that year had he 
begun to preach in St. Paul's. More, therefore, was twenty-six 
years old. If the letter has a little of ihe tone of a boy's 
theme, it must be remembered that it was written in Latin, which 
suggested a literary exercise with its classical allusions, rather 
than the familiar language of the heart. This was a natural 
reaction after the vernacular barbarisms of the last century, as 
seen in the Paston letters. At a more advanced age More did 
not disdain to write in English when addressing an Englishman, 
though he wrote occasionally in Latin to his own daughters as 
an exercise or encouragement to them. 

The rhetorical style of the letter just quoted seems to justify 
a suspicion of exaggeration in the picture of the great preachers 
who had the coveted honour of appearing in the pulpit of St. 
Paul's. They can scarcely have been all mere sounding brass 


or tinkling cymbals. In any case too much has been sometimes 
made of More's expressions, which imply pride and ostentation 
rather than immorality.* 

Having seen in this letter More's practice of frequent con- 
fession, a practice to which he was faithful to the end of his life, 
it will help us to estimate a peculiarity of More's character if I 
place here a specimen of his epigrams, probably composed 
about this time. The following translation is very literal :— f 

A squall arose ; the vessel's tossed ; 

The sailors fear their lives are lost. 

" Our sins, our sins," dismayed they cry, 

" Have wrought this fatal destiny ! " 

A monk, it chanced, was of the crew, 

And round him to confess they drew. 

Yet still the restless ship is tossed, 

And still they fear their lives are lost. 

One sailor, keener than the rest, 

Cries, "With our sins she's still oppressed; 

Heave out that monk who bears them all. 

And then full well she'll ride the squall ". 

So said, so done ; with one accord 

They threw the caitiff overboard ; 

And now the bark before the gale 

Scuds with light hull and easy sail. 

Learn hence the weight of sin to know, 
With which a ship could scarcely go. 

These good-humoured and innocent lines Mr. Seebohm gives 
as "a sample of the epigrams in which the pent-up bitter 
thoughts of the past year or two were making their escape. 

* The criticism strikes one as not too charitable, and exemplifies what 
More himself says about readiness to find fault (see supra, p. 33). Men 
openly immoral could hardly be invited to occupy that pulpit, and to accuse 
them of secret immoralities would be grave slander. Perhaps, after all, 
this letter may be simply a first draft from which Stapleton printed. 

tit is by Archdeacon Wrangham, and was printed in Cayley's Life 
of More. 



Some were on priests and monks — sharp biting satires on their 
evil side, and by no means showing abject faith in monkhood."* 

Another writer, with equally portentous gravity, observes : 
" Among the Epigrammata we find one upon the subject of 
auricular confession which no strict adherent to the Church of 
Rome would have ventured to circulate among his friends, and 
much less to print ".t 

No doubt these writers are sincere in their criticism. The 
anonymous author of Philoniorus^ though very friendly to More, 
perhaps I should rather say, because very friendly, thinks he was 
at least half sceptical as regards certain Catholic doctrines and 
practices, and that if he had lived till now he would have been 
a good Anglican. Mr. Seebohm first imagines More a disgusted 
and disappointed man, and then takes a bit of simple fun for 
" biting satire on the monks". But surely, if there is any biting 
satire here, it is on the sailors, not on the monk. The monk? 
in presence of death, calmly and courageously performs a 
difficult duty, and shows his entire conviction of what he had 
always taught. There is no more satire on the monks than in 
the old lines : — 

When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would be, 
When the devil got well, the devil a monk was he. 

I draw attention, however, to this epigram and the comments of 
modern Protestant writers, not to defend or explain these lines, 
but because More so frequently indulged in such jokes and 
tales that to some he appears sceptical, and to others supersti- 
tious. " It is indeed most wonderful," exclaims one biographer, 
" that at no period of his life did a ray of that light that was now 
breaking upon the world penetrate his mind. With talents* 
learning, and wit far beyond his contemporaries, he was also 
far beyond them in religious bigotry and superstition."]. Yet 
this blind bigot is claimed by others as a forerunner of the 

* Oxford Reformers, p. i8i. f Philoiiioriis, p. 127. 

J Writer in Chalmer's Dictionary of Biography. 


Reformation, or the teacher of a deeper and more fundamental 
Reformation than that which has usurped the name.* Neither 
party seems to understand that a man can beheve earnestly, 
even so as to be willing to die for his faith, and yet talk and 
write easily and merrily about it. "Protestants," says Cardinal 
Newman, " keep the exhibition of their faith for high days and 
great occasions, when it comes forth with sufficient pomp and 
gravity of language, and ceremonial of manner. Truths slowly 
totter out with Scripture texts at their elbow, as unable to walk 
alone. . . . Protestants condemn Catholics, because, however 
religious they may be, they are natural, unaffected, easy and 
cheerful in their mention of sacred things ; and they think 
themselves never so real as when they are especially solemn." f 
It will be necessary to say more on this subject when we 
consider how the Encomiicrn Morice was written by Erasmus in 
More's house, and with his approbation and encouragement, 
and when we consider More's style of controversy. Enough 
has been said for my present purpose, which is not to defend 
More, who needs no defence, much less to defend anything 
Catholic, but to utter a protest against the sincere but most 
groundless and unreasonable deductions made from More's acts 
or words at this crisis of his life. We may now study him as a 
married man and a lawyer. 

'"' This is Mr. Seebohm's thesis. 

t Lectures on Difficulties felt by Anglicans {Led. ix. n. 7). 



MORE had sought earnestly to discover the will of God re- 
garding the disposition of his life. He had a thorough 
determination to serve God with his whole heart, 
whatever might be his state. He had felt himself drawn in 
two opposite directions : to the married life, which involved the 
profession of the law to which his father had dedicated him, 
but for which he felt no attraction ; and to the life of a priest, 
or, perhaps, of a monk. His literary education and his taste 
for letters fitted him for either life. Learning was no longer 
confined to ecclesiastics, though they still formed by far the 
majority of studious and cultured men. He had a profound 
piety; but piety befits the laity no less than the clergy. 
At length, after many counsels and much prayer, his 
decision was taken. Having seen that he was called to 
the married state, it remained for him to seek for a lady 
who should be a suitable partner of his life, for no previous 
inclination of the heart had led him to set aside the state 
of celibacy. 

It seems probable, indeed, that there had been some 
transient attachment in early youth, but it w^as altogether past 
and could never have been very serious. In a Latin poem 
among his Epigrams he tells us his little romance : — 

Scarce had I bid my sixteenth summer hail, 
And two in thine were wanting to the tale, 


When thy soft mien — ah, mien for ever fled ! — 
On my tranced heart its guiltless influence shed. 

The premature passion caused some amusement among his 
companions and indignation in the young lady's relatives, for 
More at that time was but a poor law student at New Inn. 

Then the duenna and the guarded door 
Baffled the stars, and bade us meet no more. 

They did not meet again until five-and-twenty years had 
past. ]More was then married for the second time, and the 
lady's charms had passed away ; but the poet elegantly described 
the impression made by the meeting : — 

Crimeless, my heart you stole in life's soft prime, 
And still possess that heart without a crime ; 
Pure was the love which in my youth prevailed, 
And age would keep it pure if honour failed.* 

There was very little romance connected with either his first 
or second marriage. Both wives were rather short in stature, 
and when More was asked why he had not selected taller 
women he replied, rather in the spirit of his father : " Of two 
evils you should choose the less ".+ This, of course, was a 
mere joke, and Roper has given the true history of his first 
courtship, as he heard it from More's own lips, after the death 
of the lady : " He resorted to the house of one Mr. Colt, a 
gentleman of Essex,:}: that had often invited him thither, having 
three daughters, whose honest conversation and virtuous educa- 
tion provoked him there specially to set his affection. And, 
albeit his mind most served him to the second daughter, for 

* Wrangham's translation. The poem is not in the first edition of 
the Epigrams of 15 18, but in the second of 1520. It was written in 15 19, 
when twenty-five years {quinquc lustra) had passed since he was sixteen ; 
another proof that he was born in 1478. 

t Stapleton, ch. xiii. 

* Cresacre says, of Newhall in Essex. 


that he thought her the fairest and best favoured, yet when he 
considered that it would be both great grief and some shame 
to the eldest to see her younger sister preferred before her in 
marriage, he then of a certain pity* framed his fancy to her, 
and soon after married her." The young lady's Christian 
name was Joan or Jane. 

"She was very young," says Erasmus, "of good family, with 
a mind somewhat uncultivated, having always resided in the 
country with her parents and sisters ; but she was all the more 
apt to be moulded according to his habits. He took care to 
have her instructed in learning, and especially in all musical 
accomplishments, and had made her such that he could have 
willingly passed his whole life with her, but a premature death 
separated them." His affection is shown by one little word in 
his own epitaph, composed more than twenty years after her 
death. He calls her More's dear little wife {icxorcida Mori). 
It is curious that love of books and love of music, on the part 
of a wife, are two of the components of conjugal happiness 
mentioned by More in his poem to Candidus, of which the 
title is, " What sort of wife to choose ". She must neither be 
too talkative nor too taciturn, but she must sing and she must 

Far from her lips' soft door 

Be noise, be silence stern, 
And her's be learning's store, 

Or her's the power to learn ; 
While still thy raptured gaze 

Is on her features hung, 
As words of honied grace 

Steal from her honied tongue. 

* Sir James Mackintosh defends the use of the word "pity" from the 
charge of being ungallant. It signifies, he says, " the natural refinement, 
which shrinks from humbling the harmless self-complacency of an 
innocent girl". 


Such Orpheus' wife, whose fate 

With tears old fables tell, 
Or never would her mate 

Have fetched her back from hell.' 

After his marriage More went to live in Bucklesbury, in the 
parish of St. Stephen, Wallbrook.t From tliis marriage sprang 
four children : Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecily, and John. Mar- 
garet, the eldest, was born towards the end of 1505 or early in 
1506; John, the youngest, in 1509.:}: After about six years of 
happy married life his wife died, seemingly in childbirth. § 
Within two or three years, according to Cresacre, or as 
Erasmus, better informed, says : " within a few months of the 
death of his wife " he married again. 

Of this second marriage and of the education of his family I 
shall speak later on. This seems the place to give some 
account of the man himself: his appearance, his habits, and his 
general character. Fortunately his portrait has been drawn by 
a master hand, and by one who drew from the life and not 
from the report of others. It is in a letter of Erasmus to Von 

* Proculque stulta sit Talem olim ego putem 

Parvis labellulis Et vatis Orphei 

Semper loquacitas ; Fuisse conjugem ; 

Proculque rusticum Nee unquam ab inferis 

Semper silentium. Curasset improbo 

Sit ilia vel modo Lahore foeminam 

Instructa literis Referre rusticam. 

Vel talis ut modo 

Sit apta literis 
* * * * 

t " In the paryshe of St. Stephen's, Wallbroke, in London, where I 
dwelled before I come to Chelsith" {English Works, p. 131). Bucklesbury 
is just south of the Poultry, Cheapside. 

* The precise dates are unknown, but the calculation is made from 
their ages marked on the Basle picture. 

^ Erasmus hints at a dead child : " liberos aliquot, quorum adhuc super- 
sunt puell^ tres, puer unus ". 


Hutten. Erasmus, as we have seen, had known and loved 
More as a youth. After about six years' absence from England 
he returned to find More married. They renewed their friend- 
ship and pursued their Greek studies together. The letter that 
I am about to translate was not written until 15 19, by which 
time, from several years' residence in England, and much inter- 
course with More, Erasmus had ample opportunity to strengthen 
or to correct his first impressions. Of these visits and this 
intercourse much will be said. The picture which we are about 
to contemplate does not belong to one year more than another, 
but is that of More's manhood before he had risen to high 
dignity at court. 

Ulrich von Hutten, a German noble, who subsequently 
proved himself to have little resemblance with More,* had 
been so charmed by his Epigrams^ his translations from Lucian, 
and his Utopia, that he wrote to their common friend Erasmus, 
begging him to tell him all he knew concerning the brilliant 
Englishman. I will give his answer without modifying a 
syllable, but omitting a few sentences that are unim[)ortant or 
quoted by me elsewhere : — 

" You ask me to paint you a full-length portrait of More as 
in a picture. "Would that I could do it as perfectly as you 
eagerly desire it. At least I will try to give a sketch of the 
man, as well as from my long familiarity with him I have either 
observed or can now recall. To begin, then, with what is least 
known to you, in stature he is not tall, though not remarkably 
short. His limbs are formed with such perfect symmetry as to 
leave nothing to be desired. His comi)lexion is white, his face 
fair rather than pale, and though by no means ruddy, a faint 
flush of pink appears beneath the whiteness of his skin. His 
hair is dark brown, or brownish black. The eyes are grayish 

* In quadam epistola confero ilium (Huttenum) cum Thoma Moro, 
quo viro multis jam sa^culis nihil vidit sol integrius, candidius, amicius, 
cordatius. Hujus se vehementer dissimilem probavit Hut'enus, meque 
vanum praconem fecit (Erasm. Ep. ad Botzhcnuim). 


blue, with some spots, a kind which betokens singular talent, 
and among the English is considered attractive, whereas 
Germans generally prefer black. It is said that none are so 
free from vice. 

" His countenance is in harmony with his character, being 
always expressive of an amiable joyousness, and eveu an 
incipient laughter, and, to speak candidly, it is better framed 
for gladness than for gravity and dignity, though without any 
approach to folly or buffoonery. The right shoulder is a little 
higher than the left, especially when he walks. This is not a 
defect of birth, but the result of habit, such as we often con- 
tract.* In the rest of his person there is nothing to offend. 
His hands are the least refined part of his body. 

"He was from his boyhood always most careless about what- 
ever concerned his body. His youthful beauty may be guessed 
from what still remains, though I knew him when he was not 
more than three-and-twenty.f Even now he is not much over 
forty. He has good health, though not robust ; able to 
endure all honourable toil, and subject to very few diseases. 
He seems to promise a long life, as his father still survives in a 
wonderfully green old age. 

" I never saw anyone so indifferent about food. Until he 
was a young man he delighted in drinking water, but that was 
natural to him {id illi patrium fuit). Yet not to seem singular 
or morose, he would hide his temperance from his guests by 
drinking out of a pewter vessel beer almost as light as water, or 
often pure water. It is the custom in England to pledge each 
other in drinking wine. In doing so he will merely touch it 

* " Such men be even like followers of Chaucer and Petrarch as one 
here in England did follow Sir Thomas More ; who, being most unlike 
unto him in wit and learning, nevertheless in wearing his gown awry 
upon the one shoulder, as Sir Thomas was wont to do, would needs be 
counted like unto him " (Roger Ascham, The Schoolmaster, p. 2i6 ; 
ed. 1SS4). 

t More was not yet twenty when Erasmus first made his acquaintance. 


with his Hps, not to seem to dishke it, or to fall in with the 
custom. He likes to eat corned beef and coarse bread much 
leavened, rather than what most people count delicacies. 
Otherwise he has no aversion to what gives harmless pleasure 
to the body. He prefers milk diet and fruits, and is especially 
fond of eggs. 

'' His voice is neither loud nor very weak, but penetrating ; 
not resounding or soft, but that of a clear speaker. Though 
he delights in every kind of music he has no vocal talents.* 
He speaks with great clearness and perfect articulation, without 
rapidity or hesitation. He likes a simple dress, using neither 
silk nor purple nor gold chain, except when it may not be 
omitted. It is wonderful how negligent he is as regards all the 
ceremonious forms in which most men make politeness to con- 
sist. He does not require them from others, nor is he anxious 
to use ihem himself, at interviews or l)anquets, though he is 
not unacquainted with them when necessary. But he thinks 
it unmanly to spend much time in such trifles. Formerly he 
was most averse to the frequentation of the court, for he has 
a great hatred of constraint Uy?'aiuiis) and loves equality. Not 
without much trouble he was drawn into the court of Henry 
Vni., though nothing more gentle and modest than that 
prince can be desired. By nature More is chary of his liberty 
and of ease, yet, though he enjoys ease, no one is more alert 
or patient w^hen duty requires it. 

" He seems born and framed for friendship, and is a most 
faithful and enduring friend. He is easy of access to all ; but 
if he chances to get familiar with one whose vices admit no 
correction, he manages to loosen and let go the intimacy rather 
than to break it off suddenly. When he finds any sincere and 
according to his heart, he so delights in their society and con- 
versation as to place in it the principal charm of life. He 
abhors games of tennis, dice, cards, and the like, by which 

* He could, however, sing with the choir in the church. 


most gentlemen kill time. Though he is rather too negligent 
of his own interests, no one is more diligent in those of his 
friends.* In a word, if you want a perfect model of friendship, 
you will find it in no one better than in More. In society he 
is so polite, so sweet-mannered, that no one is of so melancholy 
a disposition as not to be cheered by him, and there is no mis- 
fortune that he does not alleviate. Since his boyhood he has 
so delighted in merriment, that it seems to be part of his nature ; 
yet he does not carry it to buffoonery, nor did he ever like 
biting pleasantries. When a youth he both wrote and acted 
some small comedies. If a retort is made against himself, even 
without ground, he likes it from the pleasure he finds in witty 
repartees. Hence he amused himself with composing epigrams 
when a young man, and enjoyed Lucian above all writers. In- 
deed, it was he who pushed me to write the " Praise of Folly," 
that is to say, he made a camel frisk. 

" In human affairs there is nothing from which he does not 
extract enjoyment, even from things that are most serious. If 
he converses with the learned and judicious, he delights in 
their talent ; if with the ignorant and foolish, he enjoys their 
stupidity. He is not even offended by professional jesters. 
With a wonderful dexterity he accommodates himself to every 
disposition. As a rule, in talking with women, even with his 
own wife, he is full of jokes and banter. 

" No one is less led by the opinions of the crowd, yet no one 
departs less from common sense. One of his great delights is 
to consider the forms, the habits, and the instincts of different 
kinds of animals. There is hardly a species of bird that he 
does not keep in his house, and rare animals such as monkeys, 
foxes, ferrets, weasels and the like. If he meets with anything 
foreign, or in any way remarkable, he eagerly buys it, so that 
his house is full of such things, and at every turn they attract 

* Several of the letters of Erasmus show that More acted as his banker 
and postmaster. 


the eye of visitors, and his own pleasure is renewed whenever 
he sees others pleased." 

The letter goes on to describe More's literary pursuits and 
his care and education of his family. For these passages a 
more convenient place will be found. To complete what 
Erasmus has said of his personal habits, I will add some ex- 
tracts from Stapleton, whose testimony in these matters is 
almost as authentic as that of Erasmus, being derived from 
members of More's family. He enters into details concerning 
More's practices of piety, which it would have been an im- 
pertinence in Erasmus to relate during his friend's lifetime, 
especially in writing to a man like Ulrich von Hutten, who 
had little sympathy with such things. 

But let us first hear More himself describe the division of 
his day, and his view of the duties of a man of the world. His 
words in the Preface to his Utopia are as follows : "While I do 
daily bestow my time about law matters — some to plead, some 
to hear, some as an arbitrator with mine award to determine, 
some as an umpire or a judge with my sentence finally to dis- 
cuss ; while I go one way to see and visit my friend ; another 
way about mine own private affairs; while I spend almost all 
the day abroad amongst other, and the residue at home amongst 
my own ; I leave to myself, I mean to my book, no time. For 
when I am come home I must commune with my wife, chat 
with my children, and talk with my servants. xA.ll the which 
things I reckon and account among business, forasmuch as they 
must of necessity be done ; and done must they needs be, un- 
less a man will be a stranger in his own house. And in any 
wise a man must so fashion and order his conditions, and so 
appoint and dispose himself, that he be merry, jocund, and 
pleasant among them, whom either nature has provided, or 
chance hath made, or he himself hath chosen to be the fellows 
and companions of his life. . . . When do I write, then ? and 
all this while have I spoken no word of sleep, neither yet of 
meat, which among a great number doth waste no less time 


than doth sleep — wherein almost half the lifetime of man creepeth 
away. I, therefore, do win and get only that time which I steal 
from sleep and meat." * 

From this we might conjecture that Thomas More kept late 
hours, that he remained studying when others had retired to 
rest. He adopted a much wiser course. Those were indeed 
days of early rising and early sleeping according to our notions. 
But More's hours were extraordinary even then. Stapleton says : 
*' His custom was not to give more than four, or at most five, 
hours to sleep. He used to rise at two o'clock in the morning, 
nnd until seven to give himself to study and devotion, f 

" Every day before any other business — his very early studies 
alone excepted — he used to hear Mass. This duty he so 
strictly observed, that when summoned once by the king at a 
time when he was assisting at Mass, and sent for a second and 
third time, he would not go until the whole Mass was ended ; 
and to those who called him and urged him to go at once to 
the king and leave the Mass, he replied that he was paying his 
court to a greater and better Lord, and must first perform that 
duty. Henry was then pious and God-fearing, and did not 
take in bad part this piety of More. 

" He used," continues Stapleton, " daily to recite morning 
and evening prayers, to which he would add the seven peni- 
tential psalms and the litanies. :]: He would often add to these 
the gradual psalms and the psalm Beati Iiiwiaculati. § He 
had also a collection of private prayers, some in Latin, some in 

* Letter to Peter Giles (translation of Ralph Robinson). 

t Vita, cap. 4. 

X The litanies referred to by Stapleton are those now called the Litany 
of the Saints. As found in the Sarum Breviaries of the time of More, 
they varied for each day of the week, though with some features in com- 
mon. The number of saints explicitly named was much greater 
than at present. 

§ There are fifteen psalms called Gradual, formerly recited by all priests 
on the Wednesdays in Lent, now only by monks. The psalm Bcati is 
the very long 118th psalm, which is daily recited in the morning hours. 


English, as may be seen in his Enghsh works. He had made 
up also, imitating in this St. Jerome and others, a small 
psaltery consisting of selected psalms, which he often used. 
He would also make pilgrimages to holy places, sometimes 
seven miles from his house, and always on foot, which even the 
common people scarcely do in England."* Among these 
holy places near London would be, no doubt, Our Lady of the 
Pew, at Westminster ; Our Lady of Barking, near the Tower ; 
Our Lady of Willesden, then much frequented ; and Our Lady 
of Grace, near the Tovver.f Besides Our Lady's shrines there 
were many others then much venerated in London — as the 
Rood at the north door of St. Paul's, the Rood called St. Saviour 
in Southwark, St. Dominick at the Black Friars, St. Francis at 
the Grey Friars, etc. At a later period Sir Thomas earnestly 
defended the practice of making pilgrimages. 

" Whenever he entered on a new office, or undertook a 
difficult business, he strengthened himself by the Holy Com- 
munion."' So far Stapleton.J 

Some other details will be given of his private devotion when 
we come to his life at Chelsea, to which period may be reserved 
what has been handed down regarding his family devotions and 
his co-operation in the public worship in his parish church, as 
well as his alms-giving. 

As I began this chapter with an account of More's earthl}' 
love, and have come now to speak of his heavenly love, I may 
conclude by a few words from his translation of the works of 
Pico, Count of Mirandula, which was made just before, or at 
an early period of, his married life, in which these two kinds of 
love are compared. I would beg the reader who wishes seriously 
to study the life of one of the world's best and greatest men 
not to skip the following passage as if it were a bit of laborious 

* Vita, cap. 6. 

t The abbey near the Tower called Eastminster was destroyed by 

t Vita, cap. 6. 


trifling of clever men, like the " conceits " of Donne or 
Cowley. We have More's ideal of human and Christian life — 
an ideal which he never changed, and which he strove hard, 
and not unsuccessfully, to realise. " I'he twelve properties or 
conditions of a lover " given by Pico are these : — 

1. To love one alone. 

2. To think him unhappy that is not with his love. 

3. To adorn himself for the pleasure of his love. 

4. To suffer all things, even death, to be with his love. 

5. To desire to suffer shame and harm for his love. 

6. To be ever with his love, at least in thought. 

7. To love all things that pertain to his love. 

8. To covet the praise of his love. 

9. To believe of his love all things excellent. 

[o. To weep often with his love for joy or sorrow. 

I T. To languish and burn in the desire of his love. 

12. To serve his love, nothing thinking of reward. 
Each of these properties is developed by More in verse, or, as 
he calls it, in ballad — the lover of God taking lessons for 
himself from the conduct, and even fantasies, of earthly lovers. 
I must be content here with one specimen. In the following 
stanzas are developed the second " property " of the twelve : — 

Of his love, lo ! the sight and company 
To the lover so glad and pleasant is, 
That whoso hath the grace to come thereby 
He judgeth him in perfect joy and bliss ; 
And whoso of that company doth miss, 
Live he in never so prosperous estate, 
He thinketh him wretched — unfortunate. 

So should the lover of God esteem, that he 
Which all the pleasure hath, mirth and disport 
That in this world is possible to be, 
Yet till the time that he may once resort 
Unto that blessed, joyful, heavenly port, 
Where he of God may have the glorious sight, 
Is void of perfect joy and sure delight. 


We have seen how joyous was the character of More ; we 
shall see that his whole life, until the last great catastrophe (in 
a worldly sense), was continuous happiness and prosperity. 
Yet it is no exaggeration to say that a man more detached 
from this world never lived, for the reason that his mind was 
entirely set upon the joy that can never fail. In the letter to 
Ulrich, Erasmus gives the following emphatic testimony : 
" Although in so many respects he is one of the happiest of 
men (and vainglory generally accompanies happiness), I never 
yet met mortal man so perfectly free from this vice. . . . 
Without the least taint of superstition, he is earnest in all true 
piety. He has his hours set apart for prayer — prayer not of 
routine, but from the heart. With his friends he so converses 
on the life that will follow this, that you cannot doubt that he 
speaks from the heart with a most earnest hope." * 

* Cum amicis sic fabulatur de vita futuri saeculi ut agnoscas ilium ex 
animo loqui, neque sine optima spe. 


WE have seen More promoted to the rank of utter 
barrister, and chosen for the honourable office of 
reader in an Inn of Chancery. This is not to be 
confounded with reader at an Inn of Court. The latter office 
demanded much higher learning and ability, and was reserved 
for the benchers. The Chancery reader had for his audience 
young students, clerks, and attornies : the reader at the Inn 
of Court, his brother barristers, and even the judges. After 
his marriage, says Roper, More applied himself diligently to 
the study of the law, "until he was called to the bench,* 
and had read ther^ twice, which is as often as any judge of the 
law doth ordinarily read''. "This office of reader," adds 
Stapleton, writing for the information of foreigners, "is most 
illustrious in England, and only given to seniors, and never 
exercised except by the most skilful, the rest who feel them- 
selves unfit purchasing their liberty at a great expense." t 

It was not until after the accession of Henry VIII. that 
More became a bencher. His first reading took place in the 
autumn of 15 ii, his second in Lent, 15 16. J On 3rd Sep- 
tember, 1 5 1 o, he was made under-sheriff of London. This office 
was in many respects different from that which is now known 
by the same name. He was the sheriff's judicial representa- 
tive, and a great number of cases came under his jurisdiction. 
Hence it was the custom for the Common Council to select 

* Made bencher, not judge. + Vita, cap. 2. X Foss. 



for the office some learned lawyer, who continued to hold it 
year after year by renomination. " I conjecture," writes 
Lord Campbell, " that the under-sheriff, besides his other 
duties, sat in the court of the Lord Mayor and the sheriffs, 
in which causes of importance were then determined, and the 
jurisdiction of which, by the process of foreign attachment, 
was very extensive." * Erasmus, who resided with More 
while he was under-sheriff, gives the following account : 
" In London he has held for some years the office of judge 
in civil causes. The office is noways onerous, for the judge 
sits only on Thursdays, and during the forenoon, but it is 
considered very honourable. No one ever concluded more 
cases, or decided them with greater integrity. He often 
remits the fees which it is customary for the suitors to pay. 
Before the opening of the case each party pays in three 
groats, t nor is it allowed to demand anything further. By 
his way of acting he has become very popular with the citizens 
of London.":}: 

By his private practice as barrister, and by his official position, 
he made, as Roper learnt from himself, an income of about 
^400 a year, equal to about ^5000 in our own time. Yet 
Erasmus says : " No one was ever more free from avarice. 
He would set aside from his income for his children what he 
thought sufficient, and the remainder he used bountifully. 
While he was still dependent on his fees, he gave to all true 
and friendly counsel, considering their interests rather than 
his own ; he persuaded many to settle with their opponents as 
the cheaper course. If he could not induce them to act in 
that manner — for some men delight in litigation— he would 
still indicate the method that was least expensive." § Stapleton 

* Lives of Chancellors {More). 

t Tres drachmas — Harpsfield translated groats. A groat = 4d. 
X Letter to Ulrich. The office of under-sheriff had been held by 
Dudley, Henry VII. 's evil adviser (Seebohm, p. 192). 


adds details that he may easily iiave gathered from Harris, 
who had been More's clerk : " He would never defend a 
cause until he had thoroughly examined it, and discovered 
the whole truth. He used to advise his clients, whether they 
were relations, friends, or strangers— for he made no distinction 
—that above all things they should not misrepresent in the 
very least the facts of the case. After he had listened to 
them, he would say : ' If the case is as you report, I think you 
will gain your suit '. But if their cause was unjust, he told them 
so plainly, and exhorted them to desist. If they would not 
listen to him, he told them to seek their advocate elsewhere."* 
He became the most popular barrister of the day, according 
to both Erasmus and Roper, and ihe king, who liked to have 
clever men in his service, instructed Wolsey to do his best to 
attract him. His efforts were at first unsuccessful, for More 
loved his liberty, and was perfectly contented with his position. 
By degrees, however, circumstances forced him to yield. The 
London merchants had controversies with those of the Still- 
yard, or the foreign merchants resident in London, and as 
these claimed treaties in their favour, it was necessary to send 
an embassy to Flanders to the Archduke Charles (afterwards 
emperor), to settle the questions amicably. The Londoners 
had so much trust in More that they asked the king to allow 
him to represent their interests. "Young More," as he is called 
by Wolsey,t no doubt in distinction from his father, was 
put in the commission with Cuthbert Tunstall (then arch- 
deacon of Chester), Richard Sampson (another ecclesiastic), 
Sir Thomas Spinelly and John Clyfford. I He left England 
on 1 2th May, i5i5,§ and was absent for more than six months, 

* Vita. cap. 3. 

t Letters and Papers of Henry VIII., vol. ii. n. 534. 

:J: Rymer, xiii. 497. 

§ Sirjames Mackintosh says that " an entry in the city records states that 
on 8th May, 1514, it was agreed by the Common Council that Thomas 
More, gentleman, one of the under-sheriffs of London, should occupy 


residing principally in Bruges, Brussels, and Antwerp. The 
diets of the ambassadors were twenty shillings a day, those of 
More (as the junior member), only 13s. 4d.* Payment was 
made in advance for two months, but as the embassy was 
prolonged, Tunstall wrote to Wolsey in July : " Master More, 
as being at a low ebb, desires by Your Grace to be set on float 
again ". t For us, the interest of this embassy is not in the 
questions debated, but in the friendships made by More on 
the Continent, and his famous Utopia^ which was begun during 
his stay in Flanders. Postponing for a time the consideration 
of this book, let us first follow More a little further in his 
external life. 

Soon after his return he wrote to Erasmus a long letter, of 
which I omit only some business matters which regarded his 
friend : — 

" Since you left us J I have received in all three letters from 
you. If I were to say that I had written to you as often, 
however hard I should lie, you would probably not believe me, 
since you know how indolent I am in letter-writing, and that I 
am not so superstitious about truth as to hate a fib in all re- 
spects like murder. Our friend, Pace, is engaged on an em- 
bassy in your parts ; at least, if he is not exactly with you, he 
is away from here. I seem to have lost half myself by his 
absence, and the other half by yours. . . . 

''The Archbishop of Canterbury [Warham] has at last got 
free from his ofiice of chancellor. You know how many years 

his office and chamber by a sufficient deputy, during his absence as the 
king's ambassador in Flanders". If so, the embassy was postponed to 
1515. I can find no mention in the State Papers of any embassy in the 
preceding year, whereas More did leave England early in May, 15 15. 
Sir James, however, says that both years are mentioned in the City 
Records {Life, p. 68). 

* Letters and Papers, ii. part ii, p. 1467, p. 1468-1470, also n. 678. 

t lb. n. 679. 

J Erasmus had made one of his short visits to England early in 1515. 


he sought this freedom. The king has appointed the Cardinal 
of York [Wolsey] as his successor, who is conducting himself 
so as to surpass even the great hopes that his virtues had 

" You will be glad to hear that our legation was pretty suc- 
cessful, except that it dragged on much longer than I expected 
or wished. When I left home I thought I should be away for 
a couple of months, whereas I spent more than six in the lega- 
tion. However, if the delay was long, the result was satisfac- 
tory. So when I saw the business for which I had come con- 
cluded, and that other affairs were likely to arise, I wrote to 
the cardinal and obtained leave to return home. I managed 
this by the help of my friends, and especially of Pace, who had 
not then left England. While I was returning I met him un- 
expectedly at Gravelines, but he was hurrying on so fast 
that we had barely time to salute each other. Tunstall has 
lately returned to England, but after scarcely ten days' interval) 
not spent in rest, but most tediously and anxiously, in giving 
a report of his legation, he is now forced upon another embassy 
to his great regret. But he might not decline it. The office 
of ambassador never much pleased me. It does not seem so 
suitable to us laymen as to you priests, who have no wives 
and children to leave at home, or who find them wherever 
you go. When we have been a short time away, our hearts 
are drawn back by the longing for our families. Besides, when 
a priest is sent out, he can take his whole household with him, 
and maintain them at the king's expense, though, when at 
home, he had to provide for them at his own ; but, when I am 
away, I must provide for a double household, one at home, the 
other abroad. A liberal allowance was granted me by the king 
for the servants I took with me, but no account was taken of 
those whom I was obliged to leave at home. And yet, though 

* He became chancellor on December 22, 1515. He had been made 
cardinal on September 10. 


you know what a fond husband I am, what an indulgent father, 
and gentle master, I was unable to prevail on them for my 
sake to remain fasting even during the short time till my return 
home. Lastly, it is an easy matter for princes to reward priests 
for their labours and expenses by ecclesiastical promotions, 
without any cost to themselves. There is no such rich or easy 
provision for us. On my return, an annual pension was, in- 
deed, apppointed for me by the king, and one by no means 
contemptible, either as regards the honour or the fruits, yet 
hitherto I have refused it, and I think I shall continue to do 
so, because, if I accepted it, my present office in the city, which 
I prefer even to a better one, would either have to be resigned, 
or else retained not without some offence to the citizens ; which 
I should be most loth to give. For, should any question arise 
between them and the king about their privileges (as sometimes 
happens), they might look on me as less sincere and trust- 
worthy, being bound to the king by an annual pension.* 

" However, in my legation, some things greatly delighted me. 
First, the living so long and continually with Tunstall, a man 
who, w^hile he is surpassed by none in culture, nor in strictness 
of life, is also unequalled in sweetness of manners. Next I ac- 
quired the friendship of ])Usleyden,t who received me with a 
magnificence in proportion to his great riches, and a cordiality 
in harmony with his goodness of soul. He showed me his 
house so marvellously built and splendidly furnished, and so 
many antiquities in which you know my curiosity and delight, J 

"" It seems, however, that he accepted the pension (see infra, p. 76). 

t Jerome Busleyden (Buslidius), a native of Luxembourg, was canon 
of Liege, Cambrai, Malines, and Brussels, provost of St. Peter at Aire, 
maitrc dcs rcquctcs and counsellor, ambassador to Julius IL, Francis L, 
and Henry VIIL He died in 1517. He was founder of the College of 
the Three Languages at Louvain. A letter of his is prefixed to the 

X Adhaec tot vetustatis monumenta, quorum me scis esse percupidum. 
Among More's epigrams are verses on Busleyden's coins, and on his 
house at Mechlin. 


and, above all, his library so well filled, and his breast more 
richly stocked than any library, so that he fairly bewildered me. 
I hear that he is about to undertake an embassy to our king. 

" But in all my travels nothing was more to my wishes than 
my intercourse with your host, Peter Gigidius [Giles] of i.\nt- 
werp, a man so learned, witty, modest, and so true a friend, 
that I would willingly purchase my intimacy with him at the 
cost of a great part of my fortune. He sent to me your 
Apology^ and your commentary on the Psalm Beatus Vir. 
Dorpius has had your letter printed and prefixed to your 
Apology. I should have hked to meet him, but as I could 
not, I sent him a short letter ; for I could not leave without 
some salutation a man who is dear to me, both for his singular 
erudition, and for many other reasons, and not least, that by 
his criticisms of your Moria, he gave you the occasion to write 
your Apology. I rejoice that your St. Jeivme and your New 
Testament are advancing so well ; they are most eagerly ex- 
pected by all. Linacre has the greatest esteem for you, and 
everywhere talks of you. This I have heard from some who 
were present, when, at supper with the king, he spoke of you 
most profusely and affectionately ; and the king answered in 
such a way that my informers were of opinion that some emi- 
nent fortune would soon be bestowed on you. I pray God it 
may be so. Farewell, my dear Erasnms. My wife salutes 
you,* and Clements, who makes such daily progress in Latin 
and Greek literature, that I entertain no slight hope that he 
will be an ornament to his country and to letters. Farewell 
again, and be contented with this one letter for many months ; 
for in it I have imitated misers, who rarely give entertainments, 
and if they do chance to give a dinner, make it a long one, so 
as to avoid the expense of frequent invitations. London, 

* This is his second wife. 

t There is no date of the month, but the letter must have been written 
very early in the year 15 16. 


More remained in England throughout the year 1516. He 
was busy in the preparation of his Utopia for the press, and in 
other hterary work, which will be mentioned in the next 
chapter. In this Lent he was giving his second course of legal 
lectures in Lincoln's Inn. Wolsey was endeavouring to bring 
him to court. His friend Ammonio writes, on 17th February, 
1516, to Erasmus: "More, having honourably accomplished 
his embassy in Flanders has returned home, and frequents the 
court with us. No one is earlier in the chancellor's ante- 
chamber."* And Erasmus replies, loth March: "I am 
vexed that your occupations prevent the Muses having full 
possession of you. I see that More, till now unconquered, is 
being carried away into the same whirlwinds." t And in a 
letter to More himself : " I foresee that the favourable wind 
will carry you away from us ; but I resign myself, since it will 
be for your happiness ".J In his letter to Hutten, Erasmus 
reiterates that More was altogether unwilling to have honours 
thrust upon him. " The king," he says, " really dragged him 
to his court. No one ever strove more eagerly to gain ad- 
mission there than More did to avoid it." 

The favour with which he was regarded both by the king 
and the citizens of London is proved by his having been 
appointed by the Privy Council to appease the mob, in the 
great riot which gained for the ist May, 15 17, the name of 
Evil May Day. The jealousy with which the foreign merchants 
were regarded by the English merchants and apprentices in 
London, led to a very serious outbreak during the night of the 
30th April. The aldermen and their guards had fled for their 
lives ; prisons were being broken open and houses plundered. 
In the midst of the tumult, however, when More addressed 

* Nemo temperius eo matutinum Eboracensi portat Ave (Inter Epist. 
Erasm. 236). 

t Letter 21. Erasmus writes from Antwerp. I am not sure that he had 
returned so soon from Basle. Perhaps the letter should be dated 1517. 

X Letter 17, in App. dated ist January, 1515 (probably 1517). 


the rioters near St. Martin's Gate, he was listened to with 
respect, and had ahiiost persuaded them to disperse, when 
stones thrown from a neighbouring house injured some who 
were with him and provoked retahations, which caused the 
angry fires to blaze more fiercely than before. The result of 
this riot belongs to general history. More's name only occurs 
in it as a peacemaker.* 

There is, however, a very interesting allusion to this riot in 
one of his latest works. He is showing how much mischief 
might arise from spreading about the rumour that heretics were 
very numerous in the country : " I remember that here in 
London, after the great business that was there on a May-day 
in the morning, by a rising made against strangers, for which 
divers of the 'prentices and journeymen suffered execution of 
treason, by an old statute made long before, against all such 
as would violate the king's safe-conduct. I was appointed, 
among others, to inquire by diligent examination, in what wise, 
and by what persons, that fiery conspiracy began. And in 
good faith, after much diligence used therein, we perfectly 
tried out at last, that all that business began only by the con- 
spiracy of two young lads that were 'prentices in Cheap. 
Which, after the thing devised first between them twain, 
perused prior by the journeymen first, and after the 'prentices 
of many of the mean crafts in the city, bearing the first that 
they spake with in hand, that they had secretly spoken with 
many other occupations already, and that they were all agreed 
thereunto : and that, besides them, there were two or three 
hundred of serving men of divers lords' houses, and some of 
the king's too, which would not be named or known, that 
would yet in the night be at hand, and when they were once 
up, would not fail to fall in with them and take their part. 
And with this ungracious invention of those two lewd lads, 

* See Hall and Stow ; also Brewer's Introduction to Letters and 
Papers, ii. 214. 


which yet in the business fled away themselves," the riot and 
disaster had their origin.* Sir Thomas goes on to show that 
he did not forget this his first lesson as to the m.ischief of 
secret societies. 

The summer of 15 17 brought a greater calamity to London 
than a riot. A deadly disease called "the Sweating Sickness" 
spread its ravages far and wide. As we shall meet this several 
times in the life of More, it may be well to form some general 
notion of what it was. Dr. Caius, a contemporary physician, 
gives the following account of the origin and nature of this 
dreadful sickness : " In the year of our Lord God 1485, 
shortly after the 7th day of August, at which time King Henry 
VIL arrived at Milford in Wales out of France, and in the 
first year of his reign, there chanced a disease among the 
people, lasting the rest of that month and all September, which 
for the sudden sharpness and unwont cruellness passed the 
pestilence. For this [the pestilence] commonly giveth in four, 
often seven, sometime nine, sometime eleven, and sometime 
fourteen days' respite to whom it vexeth. But that [the 
Sweating Sickness] immediately killed some in opening their 
windows, some in playing with children in their street doors, 
some in one hour, many in two, it destroyed ; and at the 
longest to them who merrily dined it gave a sorrowful supper. 
As it found them, so it took them : some in sleep, some in 
wake, some in mirth, some in care, some busy, and some idle ; 
and in one house sometime three, sometime five, sometime 
more, sometime all ; of the which, if the half in every town 
escaped, it was thought great favour. This disease, because it 
most did stand in sweating from the beginning until the ending, 
was called here ' the Sweating Sickness ' ; and because it first 
began in England, it was named in other countries ' the 
English Sweat '." t 

* Apology, ch. xlvii. English Works, p. 920. 

t Quoted by Mr. Brewer. Introduction to Letters and Papers, ii. 207. 


More thus writes to Erasmus in August, 1517 : "We are in 
the greatest sorrow and danger. Multitudes are dying all round 
us : almost everyone in Oxford, Cambridge and London has 
been ill lately, and we have lost many of our best and most 
honoured friends ; among them — I grieve at the grief I shall 
cause you in relating it — our dear Andrew Ammonio, in whose 
death both letters and all good men suffer a great loss. He 
thought himself well fortified against the contagion by his 
moderation in diet. He attributed it to this, that, whereas 
he met hardly anyone whose whole family had not been at- 
tacked, the evil had touched none of his household. He was 
boasting of this to me and many others not many hours before 
his death, for in this ' Sweating Sickness ' no one dies except on 
the first day of attack. I myself and my wife and children are 
as yet untouched, and the rest of my household have recovered. 
I assure you there is less danger on the battlefield than in the 
city. Now, as I hear, the plague has begun to rage in Calais, 
just when we are being forced to land there on our embassy, as 
if it was not enough to have lived in the midst of the contagion, 
but we must follow it also. But what would you have ! We 
must bear our lot. I have prepared myself for any event. 
Farewell, in haste. London, 19th August."* 

In this letter More refers to an embassy to Calais. During 
the wars with France, wrongs had been perpetrated on both 
sides, and it was resolved to settle the disputes in conference. 
The commissioners were to meet at Calais, then English terri- 
tory. After long delays, a commission was issued to Sir Richard 
Wingfield, the deputy of Calais, to Dr. Knight and Thomas 
More, on 26th August. t The negotiations were still further 
delayed because it wns found that the French commissioners' 

* Inter Epist. Erasm. 522. The Leyden editor has dated this 1520. 
As Ammonio died in the summer of 15 17, it must have been written 
that year, 

t Ltttivs and Papers, ii. 3624 

-^vX*^ OF PS/^^ 
^ MAR 92 1934 


faculties were not sufficiently extended. Thus the negotiations 
dragged on into November.* On the 15th of that month 
Erasmus wrote to Peter Giles from Louvain : " More is still at 
Calais, utterly wearied and at great expense, and engaged in 
hateful negotiations. Thus it is that kings beatify their friends. 
This it is to be beloved of cardinals." t This was an echo of 
Flore's letter of 25th October to Erasmus : "I quite approve of 
your resolution not to meddle with the laborious triflings of 
princes ; and you show your love for me in wishing that I may 
extricate myself from them. You can scarcely believe how 
unwillingly I am engaged in them. Nothing can be more 
odious than this legation. I am relegated to this little mari- 
time town, J of which both .the surroundings and the climate 
are unpleasant ; and if litigation even at home, where it brings 
gain, is so abhorrent to my nature, how tedious must it be here, 
where it only brings loss !" § The allowance or diets made to 
ambassadors in those days were scanty enough, and it must 
have been indeed a serious loss to More to forego his profes- 
sional income. A successful embassy was, however, generally 
rewarded by some ecclesiastical promotion to a clergyman, or 
by an annuity to a layman. 1| Thus, among the fees and gratui- 
ties paid by the king in 15 16 is mentioned, "Thomas More, 
councillor, for life ^100".^ On 21st June, 1518, when this 
payment recurs, it is recorded as paid out of the little customs 
of London. ** 

Roper relates an event which caused the king to draw More 

-" lb., 3750, 3766, 3772. 

t Epist. 344. Wrongly dated by the editor 1518. 

:J: His only relaxation seems to have been a two days' visit to the Abbot 
of St. Bertin's, an old friend of Erasmus. Letter of 7th October (Inter 
Ep. Erasm. 192, in App. ). 

§ Misdated by editor 1520. 

II In the king's book of payments is an entry of £2^ 13s. 4d. each to 
Knight and More for this embassy. 

■I Letters and Papers, ii. part i. 2736, or p. 875. 

** 76., part ii. 4247. 


entirely from his profession and place him at court. A great 
ship belonging to the Pope had been obliged to put in at 
Southampton, and was claimed by the king as a forfeiture. 
The papal nuncio asked that the matter should be publicly 
discussed before the king or his commissioners. More not 
only acted as interpreter, explaining to the ambassador, in 
Latin, the arguments made use of on either side, but argued 
so learnedly himself on the Pope's side that the matter was 
decided in his favour. The king, hearing how greatly he had 
distinguished himself, called him to his service. But, before 
we follow his career at court, we must go back to consider him 
in his literary and in his domestic life. 



I. Life of John Picus. 

IN 1510, ^lore published his "Life of John Picus, Earl of 
Mirandula, a great Lord of Italy, an excellent cunning 
man in all sciences, and virtuous of living, with divers 
Epistles and other works of the said John Picus ". He had 
probably made this translation some years before, during the 
time of his retirement from the displeasure of Henry VIL 

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Count of Concordia, had died 
in 1494, at the age of thirty- two, leaving a name famous for his 
threat talents and erudition, his first vainglorious appearance 
before the world and then his thorough conversion to God.* 
His complete works had been printed in Bologna in 1496, and 
again in Venice in 1498. The latter edition, which is much 
superior to the former, was the one used by More. Out of it 
he selected the life prefixed by Pico's nephew, four letters, and 
a commentary on the sixteenth psalm. 

Pico had appended to one of his letters twelve rules of 
spiritual warfare, twelve weapons, and twelve properties or 
conditions of a lover. Taking these for liis theme. More 

* His epitaph is felicitous : — 

" Joannes jacet hie Mirandula ; castera norunt 
Et Tagus et Ganges, forsan et Antipodes ". 
This was written before Vasco de Gama had rounded the Cape of Good 



developed them in his favourite seven-line stanzas. The 
poetry is entirely his own, there are no corresponding Latin 
verses in the works of Pico. But Pico wrote a beautiful prayer 
in Latin elegiac verse, of which More has given a translation or 
rather paraphrase in the same stanzas as the rest. More's 
verses cannot be called poetical. They served, however, to put 
spiritual maxims in a form that would arrest the attention and 
cling to the memory. A specimen was given in Chapter V. 

The translation of Pico's Life and Letters was dedicated by 
More to '' his right entirely beloved sister in Christ, Joyeuse 
Leigh," as a new year's present. This lady seems to have been 
a nun.* 

In the year 15 13, while More was under-sheriff, he managed 
to find time to compose his History of Richard III.^ both in 
English and Latin. It was, however, never completed, nor 
was it published during More's life. It appeared, " corrupted " 
by omissions and additions, in Harding's and Hall's Chronicles ; 
but was reprinted correctly by Rastell from a copy in More's 
handwriting. Some have doubted whether this work is by 
More or merely translated by him. The intrinsic evidence is 
in favour of its being his composition. The English is 
beautiful, and More paid no less attention to his English prose 
than to his Latin style. The book is full of pithy sayings. The 
speeches introduced (though not to be taken as really spoken) 
are the work of an orator like More, who had carefully trained 
himself on ancient models. A most competent critic has said : 
'• As if it had been the lot of More to open all the paths 
through the wilds of our old English speech, he is to be con- 
sidered as our earliest prose writer, and as the first Englishman 
who wrote the history of his country in its present language. 
. . . The composition has an ease and rotundity which gratify 

* Since the above was written More's translation has been republished 
with notes and a very interesting Introduction on the writings of Pico, 
by J. M. Rigg, Esq. (Nutt, 1890). 


the ear without awakening the suspicion of art, of which there 
was no model in any preceding writer of EngUsh prose." * 

II. Translation of Lucian. 

We have seen the friendship that sprang up between More 
and Erasmus during the visit made by the latter to England in 
1498 and 1499. Erasmus did not return to England until the 
end of 1505, when More was married and had taken up in 
earnest his profession of the law. He found the young 
barrister surrounded by literary friends ; Colet, vicar of 
Stepney, and then or soon after dean of St. Paul's ; Grocyn, 
formerly professor of Greek at Oxford, and then rector of St. 
Lawrence, in the Jewry ; Linacre, a most learned priest, and 
physician to Henry VII. (as he was afterwards to Henry VIII.) ; 
Lilly, a younger man than the others, yet not less cultivated. 
In fact, from a still earlier date and to the end of his life, 
More's company was eagerly sought by every man of the new 
culture, whether English or foreign, who came to London. 

Erasmus was invited to stay with More, and the two scholars 
found a most congenial occupation in the translation from 
Greek into Latin of several of Lucian's dialogues. More 
selected three of these for his own share — the Cynicus, 
Menippus or Necromantia, and Philopseudes, as the most 
witty. In his dedication of these to Thomas Ruthal, secretary 
to Henry VIII., and afterwards Bishop of Durham, More 
extols the truth and wisdom, as well as the wit, of these 
dialogues. That Lucian was incredulous even of man's im- 
mortality does not much trouble him. ''What do I care for 
the opinions of a heathen on such matters?" Lucian may 

* Sir James Mackintosh {Life of Sir T. More (1844), p. 41). The 
objection made by Sir H. Ellis that the writer remembered something 
said to his father at the death of Edward IV. in 1483, and that More was 
then only three years old, is of no force, since he was really five ; and it 
is not unusual to remember isolated facts which made an impression at 
the age of four or five. 


help us to laugh at superstition without touching our religious 
faith, which has no foundation in human dreams and fictions, 
but rests on solid historical proofs, which are only contaminated 
and weakened when mixed up with fables.* 

In addition to these translations More composed a Declama- 
tion in imitation of Lucian. Mr. Seebohm says : "At More's 
suggestion both (he and Erasmus) wTOte a full answer to 
Lucian's arguments in favour of tyrannicide ".t This account 
might lead those unacquainted with More's writings to think 
that, while Lucian defended the slaying of tyrants, More 
rejected and reprobated it. What may have been More's 
serious judgment on such a subject we can only gather in- 
directly, from his submission to the Church's teaching both in 
faith and morals. In his Life of Pico he had said that Pico 
" committed (like a good Christian man) both his defence and 
all other things that he should write to the most holy judgment 
of our mother Holy Church ".J But on the subject of tyranni- 
cide in general More has written nothing. Like Lucian, he 
presupposes the lawfulness and excellent merit of slaying a 
tyrant ; yet if he does this, it is merely in a literary exercise. 
Lucian had supposed a Greek city, of a republican constitution, 
of which one of the chief magistrates had made himself the 
oppressor and tyrant. There was a constitutional law in the 
republic authorising any citizen to take the life of such a usurper, 
and entitling him to a great reward in case of success. A man, 
intent on freeing his city from the tyrant, manages to get 
secretly into his citadel, in order to assassinate him. He does 
not find the tyrant, but kills his son and leaves his sword in the 

* After the above he continues : Quas scriptura nobis historias 
divinitus inspirita commendat, eis indubitata fides habenda est. Caeteras 
vero ad Christi doctrinam, tanquam ad Critolai regulam, applicantes 
caute et cum judicio, aut recipiamus aut respuamus si carere volumus et 
inani fiducia et superstitiosa formidine {Epist. Dcdic). 

t Oxford Reformers^ p. 182. 

X English Works, p. 4. 



body. The tyrant, finding his son slain, kills himself with the 
sword. The assassin then claims the reward of tyrannicide 
from his fellow-citizens. The supposed pleading of this man is 
Lucian's Declamation, and the Declamation of More is an 
answer to the assassin's pleadings. He supposes himself to be 
a citizen in this Greek republic, and he proves that, though 
accidentally the city has been freed, the assassin can claim no 
merit or reward, but rather deserves punishment, since his ill- 
planned attempt and the murder of the son were more likely 
to have enraged the tyrant, and to have confirmed his tyranny, 
than to have overthrown it. More's imaginary speech is well 
worthy to be both read and studied. It is a masterpiece of 
oratory, and gives us a specimen of that skill in arranging argu- 
ment, and expressing it in powerful and dignified language, 
which placed More the first (in order of time) on the list of 
great English orators. 

Erasmus also published his Declamation on the same sub- 
ject. In the dedication to Richard Wliitford, chaplain to the 
Bishop of Winchester,* he says that he has written this essay in 
oratory at the instigation of More, whose eloquence is so great ' 
that he could obtain anything even from an enemy, and whom 
Erasmus loves so dearly that if he asked him to dance on the 
tight-rope he would obey without a murmur. " Unless my ardent 
love blinds me, nature never made any one so ready of wit, so 
keen sighted, so shrewd. His intellect is equalled by his 
power of speech ; and his suavity is so great, his humour so 
keen yet so innocuous, that he has every quality of a perfect 
advocate." f 

Elsewhere he says : " The style of his oratory approaches 
more the structure and dialectic subtlety of Isocrates than the 
limpid stream of Cicero, although in urbanity he is in no way 
inferior to Tully. He paid so much attention in his youth to 

* The same Whitford, afterwards named The Wretch of Sion, and the 
author of the well-known Psalter of jfcsus. 
t Eras. Opera, t. i. 266. 


writing poetry, that you may now discern the poet in his prose 

III. The Moria of Erasmus. 
In 1508 Erasmus was again in England, and again the guest 
of More. In his house, and with his encouragement, he com- 
posed his famous Praise of Folly, Encoinium Morice, so called 
with a little intentional joke on the name More. It does not 
belong to my subject to notice in any detail the writings of 
Erasmus, but ]More is so closely connected with this work that 
I must enter into some explanations. We have, then, two facts 
to consider — that More is honoured by the Church, and that 
this book, written under his roof and with his applause, was 
placed on the index of prohibited books. To say that More is 
honoured merely as a martyr, i.e., for his heroic death, and that 
this implies no approval of the details of his previous life, may 
be a sufficient vindication of the consistency of the Holy 
Church, but it does not clear the character of More. To ad- 
mire and extol that character it is not indeed necessary to clear 
it from every stain. No one insisted on this more frequently 
than More himself, when speaking of our veneration for the 
fathers and saints of the Church. Shall it then be said, in all 
candour, that as Erasmus was led astray by his satirical spirit 
in this work, so More too was somewhat blinded by his par- 
tiality for Erasmus and his own love of fun ? Some may be 
inclined to take this view. Stapleton says that the friendship 
which existed between these two eminent men was honourable 
to Erasmus rather than useful to More ; that in later life More 
exhorted Erasmus to imitate St. Augustine in publishing a book 
of Retractations, but that Erasmus was so far from this humility 
that in his collection of letters he even suppressed this request 
of More's.* Candour, however, compels me to take a different 

* Vita, cap. 4. Is not Stapleton mistaken ? In a letter to Edward Lee 
in 1519 More writes : Neque enim unquam me pro tanto viro gessi a quo 
vel in aliquo literarum genere, vel in rerum perpensione communium 
Erasmus admonendus esse videretur (Apud Jortin, ii. 652). 


view, for I do not find that More ever repented his share in the 
Praise of Folly. This book is satirical on all classes, from 
popes and kings to pilgrims and beggars ; yet its satire is 
moderate compared with that of many previous writers whose 
faith and loyalty to the Church have never been called in ques- 
tion. Satire on ecclesiastical persons — whatever opinion we 
may form of it — must not be confounded with the ridicule cast 
by heretics on Divine dogmas, or institutions, or practices ap- 
proved by the Church. There was never one day in his life 
when More would have applauded or tolerated an attack or a 
sneer at anything which he knew the Church to have coun- 
tenanced. A work, however, like that of Erasmus, written in 
Latin, and intended merely for the learned, might easily seem to 
him quite inoffensive.* Some years earlier a German named 
Sebastian Brant had written in German verse a book called the 
Ship of Fools. There had been no outcry against it. It had 
been at once translated into Latin, Dutch, French, and Eng- 
lish. A recent Scotch editor of this book, Mr. Jamieson, 
writes : " Brant can scarcely be classed in the great army of 
Protestant reformers. He was a reformer from within, a 
biting and unsparing exposer of every priestly abuse, but a 
loyal son of the Church." Of the English translator, or rather 
adapter, of this book, Alexander Barclay, a priest, Mr. Jamieson 
also says : " Barclay applies the cudgel as vigorously to the 
priest's pate as to the Lollard's back. But he disliked modern 
innovation as much as ancient abuses, in this also faithfully re- 
flecting the mind of the people. "f This seems to me a perfectly 
just estimate, and explains why More saw no harm or danger in 

* Erasmus in his letter to Bozthem says that the book was received 
with great applause — praesertim apud magnates — those who were most 
caustically attacked. It began to give offence especially when Lystrius 
(while defending it) added commentaries to explain its allusions. It was 
thus brought to the level of men for whom it had not been intended. 

fShip of Fools, translated in verse by Alex. Barclay. Ed. by F. H. 
Jamieson (Edinburgh : Paterson, 1874, 2 vols.). 


the somewhat similar book of Erasmus when it first appeared. 
The Ship of Fools had been received with applause throughout 
Europe. It had even been taken as a text-book for sermons in 
Germany.* In England it was translated into both prose and 
verse, without reclamation or protest. t Why should a deeper 
book, written in Latin for more learned men, be pernicious or 
perilous ? That it was judged and declared to be so by the 
Church more than fifty years later, proves what it had become, 
not what it was at its first appearance. Circumstances had 
totally changed, and it is often the circumstances in which a 
book is read that determine its weight. There was a time 
when the Pagan classics were dangerous reading, not only from 
a moral, but a dogmatic point of view\ That time is long since 
past for those who are brought up Christians. There was a 
time when the speculations of the Manichees could entangle a 
clever rationalising youth like Augustine. At the present day, 
not only could a clever youth read them without danger, but 
he would read them with wonder that they could ever have had 
attractions for a reasonable man. And as a book may cease to 
be dangerous, so also it may become dangerous l)y change of 

When Erasmus wrote his Praise of Foll}\ the whole of Europe 
was Catholic ; Luther's name was yet unknown except in Wit- 
tenburg, where he bore the character of a good Catholic. There 
was no prospect of heresy on any large scale, but among all 
good men there were hopes of Catholic Reformation. Whether 
the satire of Erasmus was likely to hasten it might well be 
doubted. ]More thought it would, and welcomed the book. 
In later years, long before it was officially condemned, he 
regretted its appearance, not because he had changed his 
opinion of the book itself, but because he saw that it had 
been inopportune, and was abused l)y heretics and injurious to 

* Navicnlci sivc spcculutn fatuonini of Dr. John Geiler, printed in 
1510. Each sermon has for text : " The number of fools is infinite '". 
t By Henry Watson, in 1509. It was printed by Wynkyn de W'orde. 


feeble-minded Catholics. It will be better, however, to hear 
his own words on the subject. 

In 1532, he wrote thus to Erasmus: "Your adversaries 
cannot be ignorant how candidly you confess that, before 
these pestilent heresies arose, which have since spread every- 
where and upset everything, you treated certain matters in a 
way you would not have treated them had you been able to 
guess that such enemies of religion and such traitors would 
ever arise. You would then have put what you had to say 
more mildly and with more limitations.* You wrote strongly 
then because you were indignant at seeing how some cherished 
their vices as if they were virtues. "t 

Again, writing against Tindale in 1532, More says that 
Erasmus in his Mo?'ia had in a dramatic spirit put the 
objections against certain matters in a caustic and whimsical 
way, just as he had himself done in his Dialogue, " Quoth he 
and Quoth I," where he makes the "messenger" speak strongly 
and sarcastically against many things, which More then, in his 
own person, either allows to be abuses, or defends with a 
distinction, or explains and altogether approves. " But," con- 
tinues More, " in these days in which Tindale hath with the 

* Mitius ac dilutius. 

t Inter Epist. Erasm. 1123. Among the words of Erasmus referred 
to by More I may mention these : Moriam scrips! tranquillis rebus, 
quum mundus altum indormiret ca^remoniis ac priescriptis hominum, 
haudquaquam scripturus, si horum tempestatem exorituram prajscissem 
{ad Botzhcni). " Si pr^escissem hujusmodi sa^culum exoriturum, aut non 
scripsissem quaedam, qua; scripsi, aut ahter scripsissem " {Ep. 572 anno 
1521). In another letter of 1524 he says in general that what he was 
accused of having written about the origin of the Pope's supremacy, 
about confession, marriage, etc., he wrote when there was no thought as 
yet of Luther's errors ; that he merely wrote doubting, not asserting ; 
and that he was always ready to submit to the Church ; lastly, that he 
had modified what might give offence or handle to the new errors 
{Ep. 667). This is but a poor apology for sowing doubts in matters of 
faith ; but as regards the form of his satire in things not of faith (and in 
such only is the character of More concerned), the excuse is a valid one. 


infection of his contagious heresies so sore poisoned mahcious 
and new-fangled folk ... in these days in which men, by their 
own default, misconstrue and take harm out of the very Scrip- 
ture of God, until men better amend, if any man would now 
translate Moria into English, or some works either that I have 
myself written ere this, albeit there be none harm therein, folk 
yet being given to take harm of that which is good, I would not 
only 'my darling's' \i.e., Erasmus's*] books, but mine own also, 
help to burn them both with mine own hands, rather than folk 
should (though through their own fault) take any harm of them, 
seeing that I see them likely in these days so to do." t 

IV. Private Letters. 

More speaks here of works of his own, in which there was no 
hartn, yet which might be made hurtful. In spite of a recent 
attempt by Mr. Seebohm to draw from the writings of Blessed 
Thomas More, and from those of his friends, Colet and 
Erasmus, those very conclusions which More protests should 
7wt be drawn from them, I do not think there is much danger 
at the present day that the fun, or the satire, or the serious 
reproofs of any of these writers can do any injury to any 
Catholic doctrine, practice, or sentiment. I speak, indeed, 
with great reserve of the works of Erasmus, which require a 
prudent reader. But I have been unable to find in the writings 
of More any pages that I could wish unwritten or burnt for fear of 
scandal to the weak or simple ; nor do I fear his blame if I 
now print in English what he would certainly not tlicn have 
written in English, or what he never intended for publication 
in any way, but wrote for the eye of Erasmus only. 

In 15 16, Erasmus had published his translation and notes on 
the New Testament, which, though dedicated to the Pope, and 
honoured with a letter from him, and cordially approved by men 
like Warham and Fisher, had caused a commotion among 

* Tindale had thus named him. t EfiglisJi ]Vorks, p. 422. 


certain theologians and in certain religious orders. On 31st 
October, 15 16, More writes to Erasmus that there is a great 
conspiracy brewing against him. "Who are the conspirators ? 
I fear to tell you lest you should quail before such terrible and 
powerful enemies. Well, if I must say it, one is that renowned 
Franciscan theologian whom you know, and of whom you make 
honourable mention in your edition of S^. Jerome. He has 
entered into a plot with other chosen men of the same order 
and the same kidney, to write against your errors. To do this 
more easily and efficaciously, they have conspired to divide 
your works among them, to scrutinise everything and understand 
nothing. Do you see the danger impending over you ? The 
resolution was made in a nocturnal assembly, when they were 
well soaked. Next day, as I hear, when they had slept off the 
dregs, having forgotten their resolution and cancelled their 
decree, since it had been written in wine, they relinquished the 
undertaking, and from reading betook themselves again to 
begging, which long experience had taught them to be more 
useful. * 

"It is worth while to see how the Epistolce Obscurorum 
Virorum pleases all, the learned as a joke, the unlearned 
seriously.! When we laugh, these latter think we are only 
amused by the style, which they don't defend ; but they say it 
is compensated by the gravity of the matter, and that a most 
beautiful sword is hidden in a rude scabbard. W^hat a pity a 
better title was not found ! But for that in a hundred years 
they would never have discovered that the author was making a 
nose at them longer than the horn of a rhinoceros. "J 

It is clear that, when More wrote this, he was a little infected 
with the spirit of the book he had been just reading, which is 

* Notwithstanding this passage, More writes: Ordo Minoritarum, quo, 
nisi me falHt opinio, nullus est ordo sanctior (Letter to a monk, in Jortin 
ii. 695). 

t The first volume of this satirical book had just appeared. . 

X Inter Epist. Erasm. 87. 


a merciless parody on the writings and ways of the monks and 
friars. Let it however be remembered that he did not write 
this letter for publication, and that it was first published without 
his leave. Of such letters, Erasmus himself says : " I was try- 
ing my hand, killing time, amusing myself with intimate friends, 
getting rid of my bile, jesting at most, and expecting nothing 
less than that my friends would copy out and preserve such 
absurdities ".* 

At first MS. collections of such private letters were made 
and sold by booksellers, then unauthorised editions published, 
until the author was obliged in self-defence to print an accurate 
edition. Erasmus complains that in this way everything was 
perverted and misunderstood, " no attention being paid to the 
time in which a man wrote, but what was written at first most 
appropriately is afterwards applied most inopportunely. Besides 
this, men sometimes write their letters after their wine, or when 
sleepy, or tired, or half-sick, or when preoccupied with other 
affairs, or against their will — and very often they accommodate 
their style to the capacity or the tact of their correspondent." 
What mischief will arise when such letters get into the hands 
of those for whom they were never intended ! 

V. Letter to Dorpius. 

No such explanation or apology is applicable to letters 
written in order to be spread about or published. There are 
two such pamphlets, as we should call them, written by More 
in defence of Erasmus, and of the critical studies in which 
Erasmus was engaged on the New Testament and on the 
Fathers, between the years 1516 and 1520. Of these I shall 
now speak. 

A theologian of Louvain, named Martin Dorpius, a man of 

* Letter 507, to Beatus Rhenanus, prefixed to an edition of his Epistles 
in 1520, which he was obHged to reprint because the letters had been 
already printed surreptitiously. 


much reputation in polite letters and a personal friend of 
Erasmus, had written to him some rather sharp expostulations, 
both on his Encomium Morice, and on his pretension to set 
aside the authority of the Vulgate by a new Latin version. 
When More was in Flanders in the autumn of 15 15, he saw 
copies of these letters. He had wished to make the personal 
acquaintance of Dorpius, but not having the opportunity of 
meeting him, he wrote to him a long Latin letter in defence of 
Erasmus. He complains especially that Dorpius treats Eras- 
mus as if he were a mere grammarian, a master of words and 
form, without theological learning, and also that Erasmus is 
accused of attacking theologians in general, whereas he had 
merely satirised the excesses or follies of a few. More then 
goes on to assert that there are theologians who neither study 
the Holy Scriptures nor esteem the Fathers, but give themselves 
entirely to scholastic subtleties and trifling — men as far removed 
from true theology as from common sense. Here More's 
humour makes him illustrate his subject by a racy anecdote : 
"I was dining," he says, " with an Italian merchant as learned 
as he was rich.* There was present at table a monk who was 
a theologian and a notable disputant, lately arrived from the 
Continent, for the very purpose of ventilating some questions 
that he had got up, to see what kind of debaters he could find 
in England, and to make his name as famous in England as in 
his own country. At the dinner nothing was said by anyone, 
however well weighed and guarded, that this man did not, before 
it was well uttered, seek to refute with a syllogism, though the 
matter belonged neither to theology nor philosophy and was 
altogether foreign to his profession. I am wrong. His pro- 
fession was to dispute. He had stated at the beginning of 
dinner that he was ready to take either side on any question. 
By degrees our host, the Italian merchant, turned the conversa- 
tion to theological topics, such as usury, tithes, or confession 

* Probably Antonio Bonvisi, a great friend of More's and a learned 


to friars outside the penitent's parish, and the like. Whatever 
was said the theologian took at once the opposite view. . . . 
The merchant soon perceived that the monk was not so well 
up in his Bible as he was ready with his syllogisms ; so he 
began to draw his arguments from authority rather than from 
reason. He invented, ex tempore, certain quotations in favour 
of his own side of the question, taking one from a supposed 
Epistle of St. Paul, another from St. Peter, a third from the 
Gospel, and affecting to do this with the greatest exactness, 
naming the chapter, but in such a way that, if a book was 
divided into sixteen chapters, he would quote from the 
twentieth. What did our theologian do now? Hitherto he 
had rolled himself up in his spikes like a hedgehog. Now he 
has to dodge from side to side to escape these supposed texts. 
He managed it, however. He had no notion that the passages 
quoted were spurious, while, of course, he could not refuse the 
authority of Scripture ; but, as, on the other hand, it would be 
a base thing to own himself beaten, he had his answer ready at 
once. ' Yes, sir,' he said, ' your quotation is good, but I 
understand the text in this way,' and then made a distinction 
of senses, one of which might be in favour of his adversary, the 
other of himself; and when the merchant insisted that his was 
the only possible sense, the theologian swore till you would 
almost believe him, that the sense which he had selected was 
that given by Nicolas of Lyra." Now how, concludes More, 
can anyone help laughing at theologians like this? And such 
are the only men ridiculed by Erasmus. 

The passage I have quoted is but a page in a long letter full 
of erudition, of theological as well as classical learning, and of 
very earnest and eloquent pleading. Dorpius had seemed to 
underrate the difficulties of the study of Holy Scripture in 
order to exalt scholastic theology. No professor of sacred 
exegesis could dwell more warmly on the depths of God's word 
than does the witty lawyer ; and then turning to scholasticism, 
he says : " But let us suppose that Scripture is easy, and your 


questions difficult, yet the knowledge of the former may be far 
more fruitful than the guessing at the latter. To dance or to 
bend double like an acrobat is more difficult than to walk, and 
it is easier to masticate bread than to grind pot-sherds between 
the teeth, but what man Avould not prefer the common processes 
of nature to such empty feats ? Which, then, of these disci- 
plines is the easier I will not ask, but I cannot hear it said that 
these minute questionings are more useful than the knowledge 
of the sacred writings to the flock for which Christ died. If 
you merely maintain that they are things worth studying, I will 
not contest it ; if you put them on a level with the dissertations 
of the ancient Fathers, I cannot listen to you ; but when you 
not only compare but prefer these kitchen-maids to the most 
holy Bible, the Queen of all books, forgive me, Dorpius, but I 
cannot refrain from saying to them with Terence : Abite hinc 
in malam rem cum istac magnificentia fugitiva : adeo putatis 
vos aut vestra facta ignorarier ? . . . 

" I do not think you will contest this with me, that whatever 
is necessary for salvation is communicated to us in the first 
place from the sacred Scriptures, then from the ancient inter- 
preters, and by traditional customs handed down from the 
ancient Fathers from hand to hand, and in fine by the sacred 
definitions of the Church. If, in addition to all this, these 
acute disputants have curiously discovered anything, though I 
grant it may be convenient and useful, yet I think it belongs 
to the class of things without which it is possible to live. Per- 
haps you will say that in the ancient writers everything is not 
so ready at hand and easy to find, not sorted so well as in 
modern writers, who have arranged whatever is known under 
certain heads, and enrolled each individual in its proper family. 
Well, I grant all this ; and I allow that there is some conveni- 
ence in putting literary matters in their right places, just as we 
arrange our domestic furniture, so that without mistake we may 
lay our hand at once on what we want. This is a convenience, 
yet it is used so inconveniently by some, that it would be 


almost better to be without it. The reason why the ancient 
interpreters are so much neglected, is because certain unhappy 
geniuses have first persuaded themselves, and then led others 
to believe, that there is nowhere any honey besides what has 
already been stored up in the hives of the Summists. . . . 
Theologians of this kind, who read nothing of the Fathers or of 
the Scriptures except in the Sentences, and the commentators 
on the Sentences, seem to me to act as if one were to set aside 
all the authors who have written in Latin, and, gathering the 
rules of grammar from Alexander, try to learn all else from the 
Cornucopia of Perottus and from Calepinus, being convinced 
that all Latin words will be found there. Well, most words 
will be found there, and the choicest words, and the sentences 
from ancient poets and orators, some of whom are no longer 
extant elsewhere. Yet such a method will never make a good 
Latinist. And so also, though in your Summists and Masters 
of Sentences you will find many sayings of the ancients quoted 
as authorities, yet the study of these things alone will never 
make a good theologian, even though he is conversant with 
ten thousand thorny questions. . . . 

" And what purpose does this kind of theology serve ? To 
convert or refute heretics ? Certainly not. If these are un- 
learned you might as well try to bring a Turk to the faith by a 
French sermon. If they are learned, these very questions 
supply them with weapons. It becomes like a fight between 
two naked men among a heap of sharp stones ; each of them 
has the means of injuring the other, and neither of them can 
defend himself. Heretics are versed in all these tricks, and 
would never be overcome by such theologians, if they were not 
more afraid of one faggot than of whole bundles of these syllo- 
gisms. Can such a theologian make a preacher? Why, as the 
people understand nothing of this kind of language, he must 
lay it aside and learn by heart a sermon from his Ve7ii vieciun 
or his Dornii secure* foolish in itself, and when it is declaimed 

* The names of popular sermon manuals. 


by a man more foolish still, how dull and stupid the whole 
affair will be." 

The above passages must suffice as specimens both of the 
style and matter of More's first public essay in theology. We 
know that even before his death an immense movement had 
begun in the Church, both in scriptural and patristic studies, 
while scholastic theology was purified and developed. It can 
scarcely be denied that an English layman may claim some 
influence in this movement. Of More's knowledge in theology 
a further account will be given when we come to his English 
controversial works. 

The letter which More wrote to Dorpius was well received 
by him, and he publicly retracted what he had written against 
Erasmus. Nothing can be prettier than the letter in which 
More congratulates him on this magnanimity. " It is well-nigh 
impossible," he says, "to extort a retractation even from the 
most modest. Almost all are so stupid with false shame that 
they would rather show themselves always fools, than acknow- 
ledge that they were such once ; while you, who have so much 
cleverness, learning and eloquence, that even if you were to 
defend something quite improbable or purely paradoxical, you 
would be able to convince your readers ; you, I say, caring 
more for truth than for appearances, prefer to tell all the world 
that you were once deceived, rather than to go on deceiving. 
Such an act will bring you eternal glory."* More himself did 
his best to suppress the letter that had gained this victory, f 

VI. Letter to a Monk. 

There is another letter or pamphlet, written a few years 
later, also in defence of Erasmus, but in a much severer tone. 

* Letter in Jortin ii. 668. 

t See his letter to Lee, lb., 653, It was, however, reprinted in 1525. 
Thomac Mori Disscrtatio Epistolica dc aliquot sui tcmporis thcologas- 
trorinn incptiis, etc., Ad Mariiiiiiiii Dorpiiun. Liigduni Batavorum, 1525. 
It is now in his collected works. 


A monk of a contemplative order, whom More had known as 
a youth before his entrance into reHgion, had taken on himself 
to write a letter of very solemn warning against the errors of 
Erasmus, and the danger to More's eternal welfare of associating 
with such a man. There was a tone of assumed sanctity in 
the letter, united with calumnies so atrocious, that More thought 
it his duty, not only to defend Erasmus, but to strip the mask 
of false zeal from his assailant, to show him how rash were his 
judgments, how grossly unjust his words ; and, to bring home 
the matter, he pointed out how hypocrisy and superstition, and 
even gross immorality, sometimes get into the cloister, so that 
it was more befitting for a contemplative monk to watch 
against spiritual pride, than to meddle with things out of his 
sphere, to criticise one far more learned than himself, and to 
blame where the Sovereign Pontiff approved. Out of this 
letter I will merely select a few passages, which may show 
Blessed Thomas More in his graver mood, when his indigna- 
tion had been stirred by an unjust attack, not on himself, but 
on his esteemed and beloved friend. 

" I wonder," he says, " at the unbounded leisure, which you 
find to devote to schismatical and heretical books. Or have 
you so few good books that you are obliged to consume your 
short leisure on bad ones ? If the books (of Erasmus) are 
good, why do you condemn them ? If they are bad, why do 
you read them ? As you gave up the care of the world, when 
you shut yourself up in the cloister, you are not one of those 
to whom leave is given to read bad books for the sake of 
refuting them. Hence by reading what is perverse you are 
merely learning it. Not only do you spend good hours on 
bad books, but you consume much time, as it appears, in talk 
and gossip worse than bad books ; so that I notice there is 
no kind of rumour or calumny which does not find its way 
straight to your cell. We read that formerly monks so hid 
themselves from the world, that they would not even read the 
letters sent to them by their friends, nor glance back at the 


Sodom they had left. Now, I see, they read schismatical and 
heretical books, and immense volumes filled with mere trifles. 
Now, what they formerly dreaded to hear in the world, and 
fled to the cloister lest they should hear it, the cunning 
enemy has found a means of carrying into their very cells. 
Their solemn religious surroundings only serve to impose on 
the unwary, their leisure serves to elaborate their calumnies, 
their retirement from the eyes of men to prevent them from 
being abashed, and their closed cells to injure the reputation 
of those outside. Whoever enters their cells must say an Our 
Father that the conversation may be holy. But where is the 
use of beginning slanderous gossip with the Lord's Prayer ? 
If that is not taking the Name of God in vain, what is ? " * 

More's rebukes are severe. From the same letter I give one 
specimen of a lighter style, because it brings before us an 
incident of his life. 

" There was at Coventry a Franciscan of the unreformed 
sort. This man preached in the city, the suburbs, the neigh- 
bourhood, and villages about, that whosoever should say daily 
the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin \i.e.^ the fifteen decades of the 
Rosary] could never be lost. The people listened greedily to 
this easy way of getting to heaven. The pastor there, an 
excellent and learned man, though he thought the saying very 
foolish, said nothing for a time, thinking that no harm would 
come from it, since the people would become the more devout to 
God from greater devotion to the Blessed Virgin. But at last he 
found his flock infected with such a disease that the very worst 
were especially addicted to the Rosary for no other reason than 
that they promised themselves impunity in everything ; for 
how could they doubt of heaven, when it was promised to 
them with such assurance by so grave a man, a friar direct 
from heaven ? The pastor then began to warn his flock not to 
trust too much in the Rosary, even though they said it ten 

* Apud Jortin, ii. 687. 


times a day ; that those who would say it well would do an 
excellent thing, provided they did not say it with presumption, 
otherwise they would do better to omit the prayers altogether, 
on condition that they omitted also the crimes which they were 
committing more easily under the shelter of these prayers. 

" AVhen he said this from the pulpit he was heard with 
indignation, and everywhere spoken of as an emeny of Our 
Lady. Another day the friar mounts the pulpit, and to hit the 
parish priest harder takes for his text the words, Dignare me 
laudart te, Virgo sacrata ; da viihi virtiitem co7itra hastes tuos. 
For they say that Scotus used this text at Paris when disputing 
on the Immaculate Conception, having been transported there, 
as they falsely allege, in a moment, from a distance of 300 
miles, as the Virgin otherwise would have been in danger. Of 
course our friar easily convinces men so willing to listen to him 
that the pastor was as foolish as he w\is impious. 

" While the matter was at its hottest, it happened that I 
arrived at Coventry on a visit to my sister.* I had scarcely 
got off my horse when the question was proposed also to me, 
whether anyone could be damned who should daily recite the 
Rosary ? I laughed at the foolish question, but was at once 
warned that I was doing a dangerous thing ; that a most holy 
and most learned father had preached against those who did 
so. I pooh-poohed the whole matter as no affair of mine. I 
was immediately invited to a dinner, and accepted the invitation 
and went. There enters also an old friar with head bent, grave 
and grim ; a boy follows him with books. I saw that I was in 
for a quarrel. We sat down, and no time was lost ; the ques- 
tion was at once proposed by the host. The friar answered 
just as he had preached. I said nothing ; I do not like to 
meddle in odious and fruitless disputes. At last they asked my 
opinion. As I was obliged to speak, I told them what I thought, 

* It will be remembered that More had two sisters, both married. As 
Rastell's wife lived in London, this must have been his eldest sister, Jane, 
married to Richard StafFerton. 



but only in a few words and without emphasis. Then the 
friar pours out a long prepared speech which might have made 
two sermons. His whole argument hung on certain miracles 
which he read from a Mariale and from other books of that 
kind, which he had brought to table for greater authority. 
When at last he had come to an end, I modestly replied that 
he had said nothing in his whole discourse capable of con- 
vincing those who should not admit the truth of those miracles, 
which they might perhaps deny without abjuring the Christian 
faith ; and that even if they were perfectly true, they did not 
prove his point. For though you may easily find a king ready 
to pardon something in an enemy at the prayers of his mother, 
yet there is nowhere one so great a fool as to promulgate a law 
by which to encourage the audacity of his subjects against 
himself, by a promise of impunity to traitors, on condition 
of their paying a certain homage to his mother. Much was 
said on both sides, but I only succeeded in getting laughed at 
while he was extolled. The matter reached at last such a 
height through the depraved dispositions of men who, under 
colour of piety, favoured their own vices, that it could hardly 
be calmed down, though the bishop strove to do so with all 
his strength. 

" I have not related this in order to impute crime to any 
body of religious, since the same ground produces herbs both 
wholesome and poisonous ; nor do I wish to find fault with 
the custom of those who salute Our Lady, than which nothing 
can be more beneficial ; but because some trust so much in 
their devotions that they draw from them boldness to sin. It 
is such things as these that Erasmus censures ; if anyone is 
indignant against him for it, why is he not also indignant with 
St. Jerome ? " * 

* 76., p. 693. This letter was first printed at Basle by Froben in 1520, 
amongst a number of letters against Edward Lee, though there is no 
reference in it to Lee. On the above passage Mr. Seebohm finds nothing 
more appropriate to say, than that, although More had not set aside 


From passages like those here quoted, some writers have 
drawn the conclusion that More's early veneration for religious 
orders had been shaken, when he discovered how much the 
reality differed from his ideal. They should have marked 
more carefully what he says in the same letter : " I have no 
doubt that there is no good man to be found anywhere, to 
whom all religious orders are not extremely dear and cherished. 
Not only have I ever loved them, but intensely venerated 
them ; for I have been wont to honour the poorest person 
commended by his virtue, more than one who is merely 
ennobled by his riches or illustrious by his birth. I desire, 
indeed, all mortals to honour you and your orders, and to 
regard you with the deepest charity, for your merits deserve it ; 
and I know that by your prayers the misery of the world itself 
is somewhat diminished. If the assiduous prayer of the just 
man is of much value, what must be the efficacy of the un- 
wearied prayers of so many thousands ? Yet, on the other 
hand, I would wish that you should not with a false zeal be so 
partial to yourselves, that if anyone ventures to touch on what 
regards you, you should try, by your way of relating it, to give 
an evil turn to what he has said well, or that what he at least 
intended well you should misinterpret and pervert." 

In going to the root of this touchiness. More remarks both 
wisely and wittily : " Everyone loves what is his own — his own 
farm, his own money, his own nation, his own guild or associa- 
tion. We prefer our own private fasts to the public fasts of 
the Church. If we have chosen a patron saint, we make more 
of him than of ten more excellent, because he is our own, and 
the rest of the saints belong to all. Now, if anyone finds 

mariolatry he was travelling in that direction. That Luther had not 
then (in 15 19) travelled so far, though in after years he travelled faster ! 
{Oxford Reformers, p. 476.) Surely More was a man acute enough to 
know in what direction he had been travelling. When we come to his 
controversies with the Lutherans we shall hear his own account of the 


fault with this partiaHty, he is not carping at the piety of the 
people, but warning them lest, under pretext of piety, impiety 
find an entrance. No one will blame a nation for honouring 
a certain saint by name, for good reasons ; yet, it may occur 
to some that such partiality is carried too far, when the patron 
saint of a hostile country is torn down and thrown out of a 
church into the mud. * 

" Now, just as this kind of veneration and private ceremonial 
does not always turn out well with us laymen, neither does 
partisanship always thrive with you who are religious. Many 
esteem their own devotions and practices more than those of 
their monastery; those of their own monastery more than those 
of their order ; those of their own order more than what belongs 
to all religious ; and those which are peculiar to religious they 
set more value on than the lowly, humble things which belong 
specially to no one, but are common to the w^hole Christian 
people — such as the plebeian virtues of faith, hope and charity, 
the fear of God, humility, and such like. This is no new thing. 
It is a long time since Christ reproved the chosen race : ' Why 
do you transgress the commandments of God for your tradi- 
tions?' Of course, those who do so will deny it. Who is so 
senseless as to confess to himself that he makes more account 
of ceremonies than of precepts, since he knows that, unless he 
obeys the latter, the former are useless ? Doubtless all will 
answer well in words if they are questioned ; but by their 
doings they belie their words. May I be held a liar if there 
are not religious in certain places who observe silence so obsti- 
nately that at no price could you get them even to whisper in 
their corridors ; but, draw them one foot outside, and they will 
not hesitate to storm at whoever offends them. There are some 
who would fear lest the devil should carry them off alive if they 
made any change in their dress, and who have no fear of heap- 

* Perhaps St. Denis had been thus treated at the cry of " St. George 
for England," during the French wars. 


ing up money, of opposing and deposing their abbot. Are there 
not many who, if they omitted a verse of their office, would think 
it a crime to be expiated with many tears, and who have not the 
least scruple to take part in calumnious gossip longer than their 
longest prayers ? Thus they crush a gnat and swallow an ele- 
phant whole." * 

I have given these long quotations that the reader may know 
the good and evil of More's times, and may see him in his 
many-sided character, and not be led to believe, by a short 
sentence taken here or there from his writings, that he was 
either an incipient rationalist or a narrow-minded bigot. 

VII. Utopia. 

I now come to his Utopia. This is the work by which More 
is best known. He wrote it in Latin, and, though it was soon 
translated into French and other European languages, it was 
not translated into English until long after his death. He cer- 
tainly had no wish that it should be read by the people of 
England in the days of Henry VIII. Neither its serious wis- 
dom nor its peculiar irony, nor its subtle mixture of philosophy 
and banter, were on the level of the half-educated men and 
women who could only read English. Probably More was not 
loth that his free speculations should be unknown to some of 
the great lords, like the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, who 
ruled in the king's council. 

The second book of the Utopia was written first, probably 
during the leisure hours of his first embassy in Flanders. He 
there showed it to some of his learned friends, such as Giles 
and Busleyden. He was urged by them so earnestly to com- 
plete and publish it that he set about writing the Introduction, 
or first part, on his return to England in 151 6. It was printed 
in Louvain by Thierry Martins in December, 15 16, under the 
editorship of Erasmus, Peter Giles, and others. The reprints 
have been innumerable. 

* Ih., 691. 


The book is so well known that it need scarcely be saidj^hat 
an imaginary Portuguese traveller, named Raphael Hythloday, 
a companion of Amerigo Vespucci, is supposed to have met 
More and Peter Giles at Antwerp, and to have described to 
them the institutions of a wonderful people he had found in an 
island called Utopia or Nowhere.* I will not here analyse his 
book, nor mention the various social, political, philosophical 
and religious questions on which he treats. Every educated 
man should read Utopia for himself; but, in doing so, he must 
bear in mind the peculiarity of More's character and the circum- 
stances in which the book was published. 

As regards More himself, Erasmus has remarked that his 
countenance was often a mystery, so that even members of his 
own family would be puzzled to gather from his look or tone 
whether he was speaking in jest or in earnest.! So it was his 

"" Philomorus quotes an epigram by John Heywood, a contemporary of 
More's, to the effect that More wrote his Utopia at North Mimms. in 
Hertfordshire, where he had a house : 

" There famous More did his Utopia write, 
And there came Heywood's epigrams to light ". 

- — PJiiloiiionis, p. g. 
But this is doubtful. Sir yoJm More had a residence at North Mimms, 
but probably at a later date. Utopia (Ovtottos) or Niisquaiita (as More 
sometimes calls it in his letters), "Nowhere". Revised and reprinted 
by Froben at Basle, November, 1518; reprinted in Paris and Vienna 
during the author's life, but not in England. An English translation, by 
Ralph Robinson, appeared in 1551 ; it has been reprinted by Dibdin, by 
Arber, and Lumley. Dibdin's edition, with his notes, was beautifully 
reprinted by Roberts in 1878. Another translation was made by Burnet 
in 1684; it has been edited by Mr. Morley in Cassell's National Library 
(price 3d.). The introduction and notes to Mr. Lumley's edition will be 
found very useful to those who wish to study the book. He has joined 
with it Roper's Life of More. 

t More himself refers to this. In his Dialogue his companion says : 
" Ye use (my master saith) to look so sadly when ye mean merrily, that 
many times man doubt whether ye speak in sport when ye mean good 
earnest" {English Works, p. 127). 


peculiar humour to mystify his readers. " He hovers," says 
Mr. Brewer, " so perpetually on the confines of jest and 
earnest, passes so naturally from one to the other, that the 
reader is in constant suspense whether his jest be serious or 
his seriousness a jest." * There was policy in adopting this 
style in the Utopia. He had some rude truths to tell the king, 
as will be seen in a future chapter; he had many burning 
questions to discuss ; it was necessary therefore to mix with 
them some matters which could not be taken seriously or 
attributed to him as his own opinions. Thus he says of the 
Utopians that they have no lawyers among them, and consider 
them as a sort of people whose profession it is to disguise 
matters and to wrest the laws aside. Who can say whether 
this does or does not express his real opinion ? The Utopians 
use no money, and have no private property. Such a supposi- 
tion gave him scope to show the evils that come from avarice 
and attend property ; but no one can argue that More seriously 
taught communism or the injustice of private property. There 
is a voluntary communism which the Church has ever approved 
in her religious orders, and which, in Apostolic days, was 
practised even by families. More merely supposes this to be 
adopted by a whole nation. He attributes to his islanders 
most repulsive principles on treachery in war. Under cover of 
this he writes many things concerning European military tactics 
and diplomatic treaties that it would have been dangerous to 
state without a mixture of absurdity. 

Mr. Seebohm, nevertheless, seems to think that whatever 
More writes on the subject of religion, on toleration, on divorce, 
and the rest, must have represented his serious views at that 
time of his life. His analysis is as follows : " Their priests 
were very few in number, of either sex, and, like all other 
magistrates, elected by ballot ; and it was a point of dispute 
even with the Utopian Christiafts whether they could not elect 

* Introduction to Letters and Papers, ii. p. 26S. 


their own Christian priests in like manner, and quaHfy them to 
perform all priestly offices, without any Apostolic succession or 
authority from the Pope. Their priests were, in fact, rather 
conductors of the public worship, inspectors of the public 
morals, and ministers of education, than ' priests ' in any 
sacerdotal sense of the word. . . . The hatred of the Oxford 
Reformers for the endless dissensions of European Christians 
. . . pointed to a mode of worship in which all of every shade 
of sentiment could unite."* What are we to think of all this ? 
Was Thomas More in 151 6 really an advanced Protestant of 
the type here described? If not, why are these things in his 
Utopia ? The simple answer seems to be that More is 
describing purely natural and unrevealed religion. He admits 
that in Utopia there were many opinions and divisions in 
religion, and even some idolatry. To the better class, how- 
ever, he attributes a kind of beautiful deism, not as something 
which he would substitute for Christianity, but which might be 
an excellent preparation for Christianity, could it be supposed 
to exist, and in the description of which he could reprove some 
vices of professing Christians. Thus, for example, in the 
eagerness of the Utopians to die, in order to see and possess 
the God whom they worshipped, he indirectly satirises the 
reluctance of Christians to go and enjoy the Beatific Vision. 
But if he so extols the natural piety of his Utopians as to put 
Christians to the blush, surely it by no means follows that the 
Christian revelation, in More's view, contained nothing regard- 
ing the sacrifice of the Mass or the sacrament of Holy Orders. 
We know that More, from his boyhood, had the tenderest 
devotion to Our Lord's Passion, and the firmest belief in the 
redemption of the world by the Precious Blood. Yet he writes 
of his Utopians : " 'J'hey offer up no living creature in sacrifice, 
nor do they think it suitable to the Divine Being, from whose 
bounty it is that those creatures had derived their lives, to take 

* Oxford Reformers, p. 363. 


pleasure in their deaths or the offering up of their blood". It 
would be as reasonable to conclude from these words that 
More was a Socinian at heart as that he was sceptical regarding 
the constitution and discipline of the Catholic Church because 
of his pictures of Utopian modes of worship. This would be a 
perfectly legitimate answer to Mr. Seebohm's conclusions had 
More died, like his friend Colet, before the Lutheran and 
Zwinglian heresies had arisen. But what can be the purpose 
of arguing by induction from a w^ork which was put out as a 
jeu d' esprit when the writer has left hundreds of pages in 
which his real belief is expressed without ambiguity ? 

x\mong the various points of Utopian discipline let us take 
the first in Mr. Seebohm's enumeration as a specimen. More 
says that the female sex was not excluded from the priesthood, 
though female priests wTre fe\v, and only widows advanced in 
age were elected. What is there in this contrary to natural 
religion, which More is describing ? And considering the kind 
of functions which alone he assigns to priests, what is there in 
this contrary even to Catholic discipline, which has ever given 
a high and honourable part to women, especially in religious 
orders ? But the question is whether More held that in 
Christ's Church there is no Apostolical succession, no sacrament 
of Holy Orders, no Divinely communicated jurisdiction, no 
Divinely appointed distinction between the sexes as regards the 
priesthood. Well, it so happens that Tindall, an English 
Lutheran, put out a theory that in case of need — as, for example, 
if a woman were cast by shipwreck on an island where there 
were no Christians — she might preach and consecrate the Holy 
Eucharist. More replied: "Tindall may make himself sure, 
that since there falleth not a sparrow upon the ground without 
Our Father that is in heaven, there shall no woman fall aland 
in any so far an island, where God will have His name preached 
and His sacraments ministered, but that (iod can, and will, 
well enough provide a man or twain to come to land with her ; 
whereof we have had already meeily good experience, and that 


within few years. For I am sure there hath been more islands 
and more part of the firm land and continent discovered and 
founden out, within these forty years last past, than was new 
founden, as far as any man may perceive, this three thousand 
years afore. And in many of these places the name of Christ, 
now new known too, and preachings had, and sacraments mini- 
stered, without any woman fallen aland alone. But God hath 
provided that His name is preached by such good Christian 
folk as Tindall now most raileth upon, that is good religious 
friars, and specially the Friar Observants, honest, godly, chaste, 
virtuous people ; not by such as Friar Luther is, that is run out 
of religion, nor by casting to land alone any such holy nun as 
his harlot is."* And in another place : " His heresy reckoneth 
every woman a priest, and as able to say Mass as ever was St. 
Peter. And in good faith, as for such Masses as he would have 
said, without the canon, without the secrets, without oblation, 
without sacrifice, without the Body or Blood of Christ, with 
bare signs and tokens instead of the Blessed Sacrament, I ween 
a woman were indeed a more meet priest than St. Peter." f 

As early as 1523, that is, seven years after the pubHcation of 
the Utopia^ those very points which Mr. Seebohm would per- 
suade the world were the advanced liberal creed of Colet, More, 
and Erasmus, More had selected as the iiisanissiina dogmatay 
the " most mad doctrines " of Luther.J Nor did it once occur 

* English Works, p. 428. 

\ lb., p. 623. 

X Luther rejected the visible Catholic Church and appealed to the true 
invisible Church of Christ. More takes him at his word and answers 
him as follows: " Profer tu gentem aliquam, ubi unquam in tot aetatibus, 
ante natum te, tuai probatae sunt haereses. Ostende apud quos Christi- 
anos sacerdos nil distarlt a laico, apud quos Christianos mulieres admissas 
sint ad audiendas confessiones, ubi creditai sint foeminae sacerdotes esse 
et idoneas quae conficerent Eucharistiam. Quaecumque tot aetatibus vera 
fuit ecclesia, sive ilia fuit bonorum malorumque multitudo promiscua, sive 


to him, or to his opponents, that these were the very doctrines 
that he and his friends Colet and Erasmus had secretly held, 
or endeavoured covertly to insinuate. 

As regards the Utopia, Harpsfield assures us that the zeal 
of many good priests was so stirred in reading More's account 
of this admirable people, so near to the kingdom of God, that 
they wished to set out at once to convert them to the faith of 
Christ. Their innocent error in taking Utopia for a real 
country was not so ridiculous as that of Mr. Seebohm, in 
taking More's description of their religion for More's own pro- 
fession of Christianity.* 

VIII. Epigrams. 

Together with the Basle edition of the Utopia there appeared 
in March, 15 18, a collection of Latin Epigrams, by Thomas 
More and William Lilly, and a further series by Erasmus. A 
second edition came out in November of the same year, and a 
more complete collection in 1520. Prefixed is a letter of 
Erasmus to Eroben, the publisher, in which he says : " What 
might have been expected had Italy given birth to so happy a 
genius, if he had given himself entirely to the Muses, and if his 
talent had ripened to its autumnal fruit ? Eor he was but a 

numerus duntaxat bonorum, sive in his regionibus quae parent Romano 
Pontifici, sive alibi ubicumque terrarum, semper contra te sensit ilia, et 
tua damnavit insanissima dogmata " {Rcsponsio ad Luthcrmii, cap. x. 
p. 62, ed. Francofurt). 

* " The true notion of Utopia is, that it intimates a variety of doctrines, 
and exhibits a multiplicity of projects, which the writer regards with 
almost every possible degree of approbation and shade of assent ; from the 
frontiers of serious and entire belief, through gradations of descending 
plausibility, where the lowest are scarcely more than the exercises of 
ingenuity, and to which some wild paradoxes are appended, either as a 
vehicle or as an easy means (if necessary) of disavowing the serious 
intention of the whole of the Platonic fiction." — Sir James Mackintosh 
{Life of More, p. 61). 


youth when he amused himself with these Epigrams, and no 
more than a boy when he wrote many of them. He has never 
left his native Britain but once or twice, when he was an envoy 
of his prince in Flanders." * 

The epigrams appeared with the title of " Progymnasmata " 
or exercises, because several of them were efforts of skill in 
translation from Greek into Latin. These, however, make 
only a fourth part of the whole collection, 

A writer, who has illustrated More's epigrams in a very 
scholarly and interesting book, remarks that " the term Epi- 
gramma, as used in the time of Erasmus, was of a more com- 
prehensive character than our modern word Epigram. Like 
the Epigram, it was a fugitive composition springing out of the 
more salient topics of every-day life, terse in diction, and 
steady in its pursuit of one subject. But it was frequently of 
greater length than our modern Epigram. Many of the Epi- 
grammata might be classed under the modern designation of 
vers de societey I do not think it necessary to offer any criti- 
cism or further account of More's verses. Those who are 
interested will find all they can wish in the FhiIojnorus.\ 

One short piece, however, may be here mentioned, as being 
connected with some pictures painted at the period we have 
been reviewing, and which are still said to exist. 

When More was at Calais in 1517, he received a present 
which caused him singular pleasure. His two friends, Erasmus 
and Peter Giles (Egidius), had their portraits painted by Quen- 
tin Matsys on two panels united as a diptych. Erasmus was 
represented as writing the first lines of his Paraphrase on the 
Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. Giles was holding in his 
hand a letter to which More's name was legibly subscribed. 
Erasmus sent the diptych by a messenger with a short letter : — 

" I send you these portraits that we may be in some way pre- 

* Epist. Erasui. 167, in App. 

t Philomorus. Second edition. Longmans, 1878. 


sent with you, even if by chance we should be taken away. 
Peter pays one-half of the cost, and I the other. Either of us 
would gladly have paid the whole, but we wished the gift to be 
from both. ... I am sorry you are shut up in Calais. If 
nothing else can be done, write frequently, though it be only a 
few words. Farewell, dearest of mortals. From Antwerp, 8th 
September, 15 17."* 

Giles, while the portraits were being painted, had been very 
ill. More writes to him on 6th October : " My dearest Peter, 
I am longing to hear about your health ; no matter of my own 
gives me more anxiety. Some give me good hope, either well 
founded, as I trust, or else to comfort me. I have written a 
letter to Erasmus, but I send it open to you ; you will seal it 
yourself. There is no need to close against you whatever I 
write to him. I have written for you a few verses about the 
picture, though they are as unskilful as that is skilful. If you 
think them deserving of it, send them to Erasmus ; if not, 
throw them in the fire." t The Latin verses were very happy, 
both in matter and form. In his letter to Erasmus, More 
says : " You cannot believe, my Erasmus, my darling Eras- 
mus, I how this eagerness of yours to bind me still more 
closely to you, has heightened my love for you, though I 
thought nothing could be added to it ; and how triumphant I 
am in the glory of being so much esteemed by you, as that 
you should make it known by a monument like this, that there 
is no one whose love you prefer to mine. It may be a proud 
thought, but most certainly I esteem your gift to mean that 
you would wish the memory of you to be renewed in my mind, 
not daily only, but every hour. You know me so well that I 

* Episf. Erasm. ijg, in App. Egidius wrote to Erasmus on 27th Sep- 
tember : " Si Morus Caleti est jam habet spectacula nostra" {lb., 193). 

t lb., 192. 

X Erasmiotatos, the superlative of Erasmios, which had been incor- 
rectly turned into Erasmus. It means " beloved ". 


need not labour to prove to you that, with all my faults, I am 
no great boaster. Yet, to tell the truth, there is one craving 
for glory I cannot shake off, and it is wonderful how sweetly 
I am elated when the thought occurs to me that I shall be 
commended to the most distant ages by the friendship, the 
letters, the books, the pictures of Erasmus.* 

In another letter More reverts to the subject with one of his 
characteristic jokes. In his verses he had likened Erasmus 
and Egidius to the twin brothers, Castor and Pollux. A friar 
had criticised the similitude. Erasmus and Egidius, he said, 
were friends, not brothers. They would, therefore, have been 
more aptly compared to Pylades and Orestes, or to Theseus 
and Pirithous, who were fast friends, though not brothers. 
This criticism drew from More the following epigram : — 

Duos amicos versibus paucis modo 

Magnos volens ostendere, 
Tantos amicos dixeram, quanti olim erant 

Castorque Polluxque invicem. 
" Fratres amicis," ait, " inepte comparas," 

Ineptiens fraterculus. 
" Quidni ? " inquam ; " an alteri-esse quisquam amicior, 

" Quam frater est fratri, potest ? " 
Irrisit ille inscitiam tantam meam, 

Qui rem tarn apertam nesciam. 
" Est ampla nobis," inquit, " ac frequens domus, 

" Plus quam ducentis fratribus, 
" Sex ex ducentis, pereo, si reperis duos 

" Fratres amicos invicem." f 

The man would deserve a far severer epigram who should take 

* lb., 193. 

t Inter. Epist. Erasm., 204, in App. For those who do not know 
Latin I may state the substance of the Hnes in the text : — 
" All brothers are not friends, you truly say ; 
For friars are brothers, yet what friends are they ? " 

LITERARY. 1 1 1 

these verses seriously, as if More thought ill of the friars, or as 
if the friars would not have laughed heartily at the epigram.* 

* The reader will be interested to know that at least one of the two 
portraits is still in existence. According to Mr. J. G. Nichols, the portrait 
of Egidius in the collection of Lord Radnor, at Nostel Priory, which was 
long attributed to Holbein, is undoubtedly the work of Quentin Matsys 
mentioned in these letters. It has been detached from its companion. 
Quentin's companion picture of Erasmus, or, according to Mr. Nichols, a 
copy of it, is in Hampton Court, and was also wrongly attributed to Hol- 
bein (see in Archccologia, vol. xliv. p. 435, an article written in 1873, 
thoroughly discussing the subject). There exists also in the British 
Museum the small illuminated book of Latin verses by More presented 
to Henry VHL soon after his marriage. The red rose of Lancaster has 
an interior circle of white petals, in allusion to the white rose of York of 
Henry's mother (Cotton MSS. Titus D. iv., at the beginning). 



THE Strange fascination exerted by More, which has made 
even the foes of his rehgion speak of him both reverently 
and affectionately, is probably due to the beautiful details 
of his domestic life that have been handed down to us, rather 
than to his wit or literary excellence. Had he been all that he 
was in life and death, with one only exception — an ecclesiastic, 
instead of a father of a family — he would have been still great, 
amiable, and holy, but Macaulay would probably not have 
selected him as "a choice specimen of human wisdom and 
virtue," in stating his paradoxes about transubstantiation. Thus 
the very circumstances, by which in his own eyes More was 
placed on a lower level than his unmarried and consecrated 
fellow-martyrs, have raised him to a higher estimation in the 
minds of modern Englishmen; the "worldly wretch," as he 
called himself, who had twice gone to earthly nuptials, is 
preferred to the "blessed fathers" of the Charterhouse, whom 
More admired "going like bridegrooms to their (heavenly) 
marriage ". Yet, while holding with the Church of all ages, that 
it is a more blessed state to remain unmarried for the kingdom 
of heaven's sake, we may nevertheless, and for that very reason, 
admire all the more a married man and a father, to whom 
family ties were no impediment, whose heart remained undivided 
and altogether God's, and who equalled on the scaffold both 
the constancy and the joy of his venerable fellow-sufferers ; and 
we may thank God for giving to us in both states of life, 


examples, variously attractive yet equally admirable, of the 
power of His grace. 

Section I. The Family. 

We owe to Erasmus more than one beautiful picture of 
More's domestic life, and I will translate his words without 
abridgment or interruption, reserving the details that have 
come to us from other sources until we have looked carefully 
at his masterly sketch. The letter to Ulrich von Hutten, 
which has been frec^uently quoted, was written on the 23rd 
July, 15 19. At that time More had been eight or nine years 
married to his second wife, who had given him no children, but 
had been as a mother to his four children by his first wife. He 
was forty-one years old, his eldest child thirteen. 

A few months after the death of Jane Colt he had married, 
against the advice of his friends, a widow named Alice 
Middleton, neither young nor handsome — necbella ?iecpuella, as 
More would sometimes say laughingly to Erasmus; "but an 
active and vigilant housewife, with whom," continues his friend, 
" he lives as pleasantly and sweetly as if she had all the charms 
of youth. You will scarcely find a husband who, by authority 
or severity, has gained such ready compliance as More by 
playful flattery. What, indeed, would he not obtain, when he 
has prevailed on a woman already getting old, by no means of 
a pliable disposition, and intent on domestic affairs, to learn to 
play the harp, the lute, the monochord, and the flute {cithara^ 
testudhie, juoiwchordo^ tibiis)^ and by the appointment of her 
husband to devote to this task a fixed time every day? * With 
the same address he guides his whole household, in which there 
are no disturbances or strife. If such arise he immediately 
appeases it and sets all right again, never conceiving enmity 

* More's friend Pace tells us that More played duets with his wife : 
Sicut Morus meus didicit pulsare tibias cum conjuge [Dc Fructu, etc., 

P- 35)- 



himself nor making an enemy. Indeed, there seems to be a 
kind of fateful happiness in this house, so that no one has lived 
in it without rising to higher fortune ; no member of it has ever 
incurred any stain on his reputation. You will scarcely find 
any who live in such harmony with a mother as does Thomas 
More with his step-mother, for his father had married again, and 
the son was as affectionate towards her as to his own mother. 
Quite recently he has married a third wife, and More swears he 
never knew a better woman. Towards his x^arents and his 
children and his sisters his love is never intrusive or exacting, 
while he omits nothing that can show his sincere attachment." 

Two years later, towards the end of the year 152 1, Erasmus 
returns to the same subject in a letter to Budee, a very learned 
French statesman, and a married man like More. 

" If More had the means he would be a great Maecenas of 
learning. He has helped the learned even when he himself 
was in debt. Nor does he adorn letters merely by his own 
learning or his partiality for learned men, for he has reared his 
whole family in excellent studies — a new example, but one 
which is likely to be much imitated, unless I am mistaken, so 
successful has it been. He has three daughters, of whom the 
eldest, Margaret, is married to a young man who is wealthy 
{beato)^ of excellent and modest character, and not unacquainted 
with literature. More has been careful to have all his children, 
from their earliest years, thoroughly imbued, first with chaste 
and holy morals, and then with polite letters. He has taken 
into his family another girl, and adopted her as companion to 
his daughters. He has a step-daughter of rare beauty and 
talent, who has been some years married to a young man not 
unlearned, and of a most amiable character. He has a son by 
his first wife, the youngest of his children, about thirteen years 

* Here the memory of Erasmus is defective, though he says "plus 
minus". Young John More could not be over eleven in the autumn of 


" A year ago it occurred to More to send me a specimen of 
their progress in study. He bade them all write to me, each 
one without any help, neither the subject being suggested nor 
the language corrected ; for when they offered their papers to 
their father for correction, he affected to be displeased with the 
bad writing, and made them copy out their letters more neatly 
and accurately. When they had done so, he closed the letters 
and sent them to me without changing a syllable. Believe me, 
dear Budee, I never was more surprised ; there was nothing 
whatever either silly or girlish in what was said, and the style 
was such that you could feel they were making daily progress. 
This amiable circle, with the two husbands,* all live in his 
house. In that house you will find no one idle, no one busied 
in feminine trifles. Titus Livius is ever in their hands. They 
have advanced so far that they can read such authors and under- 
stand them without a translation, unless there occurs some such 
word as would perhaps perplex myself His wife, who excels in 
good sense and experience rather than in learning, governs the 
little company with wonderful tact, assigning to each a task, and 
requiring its performance, allowing no one to be idle or to be 
occupied in trifles. 

"You complain occasionally in your letters to me that 
philology t has got a bad name through you, since it has both 
injured your health and made you poorer. But More manages 
to be well spoken of by all and in all respects ; and he avers 
that he is indebted to literature both for better health, for the 
favour and affection he meets with from his excellent prince, as 
well as from his own countrymen and foreigners, for an increase 
of wealth, for becoming more agreeable both to himself and his 
friends, more useful to his country and his relatives, more 
fitted for the life at court, and intercourse with nobles, as well 
as for all society and social life, and lastly, more dear to 

* Duobus sponsis ; I will discuss the meaning of this word presently, 
t Budee was a scholar and antiquarian. His great work, Dc Asse, 
had already been published. 


heaven. Formerly learning had a bad name, since it seemed 
to deprive its votaries of common sense. Well, no journey, no 
business, however prolonged or arduous, makes More lay aside 
his books ; yet you will find no one who is so companionable 
a man at all times, and to every class,* so ready to render 
service, so affable, so lively in conversation, or who knows so 
well how to unite solid prudence with sweetness of manners. 
Hence it has come to pass that, whereas a short time since, 
love of literature was held to be useless either for practical or 
ornamental purposes, now there is scarcely a nobleman who 
considers his children worthy of his ancestors unless they are 
educated in good letters. Even in kings a great part of their 
royal splendour is seen to be wanting where there is little 
acquaintance with literature." t 

We may now go back and consider the various personages 
mentioned in these letters. And first his wife, the step-mother 
of his children. Cresacre More writes : " I have heard it re- 
ported he wooed her for a friend of his, not once thinking to 
have her himself, but she wisely answering him ' that he might 
speed if he would speak in his own behalf,' teUing his friend 
what she had said unto him, with his good liking he married 
her, and did that which otherwise he would never have thought 
to have done". None of More's contemporaries mentions this 
story, and though I cannot disprove it, it seems to me to have 
been invented to match the second courtship with the first, and 
to explain what might seem a somewhat ill-assorted marriage. 
Yet, if More sought the benefit of his children rather than him- 
self, he appears to have made an excellent choice, and so 
philosophical was his mind and happy his disposition that he 
lived with her as pleasantly, if not as affectionately, as if they 
had been drawn together by similarity of tastes and character. 
She was seven years his senior, as we know from the inscrip- 

* Omnibus omnium horarum homo, 
t Epist. 605. 

DOMESTIC. 1 1 7 

tion on the family picture. The character of this good lady 
seems to me to have been most gratuitously blackened. "Any 
heart but More's," writes Mr. Dibdin, " would have been 
broken by this match, for Mrs. Alice Middleton appears to 
have been one of the most loquacious, ignorant, and narrow- 
minded of women. Like another Socrates, More endeavoured 
to laugh away his conjugal miseries ; always replying to the 
sarcastic remarks of his wife with complacency and poignant 
good humour.''* Let us be just. There is nothing in the 
letters of Erasmus or More to authorise such a censure as this. 
It is said that Erasmus found the lady rude and inhospitable. 
It is true that in 15 16 he mentions in one of his letters that he 
is growing weary of England, and finds that he has outstayed his 
welcome with More's wife.t Yet although a lady should make 
her husband's guest and dear friend feel at home, let it be 
remembered that Erasmus had never taken the trouble to learn 
a word of English. X It would surely be a trial to the meekest 
or most genial of wives to hear all the conversation and the 
laughter-moving jokes carried on daily, for weeks together, in a 
language of which she could not understand a word. 

Perhaps she was somewhat worldly, " but so," as Sir Thomas 
would say of her, " that she was often penny-wise and pound- 
foolish, saving a candle's end and spoiling a velvet gown ".§ 
More, however, had chosen her that her economical habits 
might counterbalance his own rather excessive carelessness, and 
we do not find that she complained of his generous alms. We 
may sometimes know a person's character better by the letters 
he receives than by those he writes, since the former indicate 

* Biographical Introduction to More's Utopia. 

t Ni jam me taideret Britanniae, et sentirem me vetulum jamhospitem 
uxori Moricae suppetere [Ep'ist. 133). The editor has dated the letter 
151 1. From the allusions in it, it should be 1516. 

:i: Erasmus confesses his entire ignorance of English in Letter 165, 
written after he had spent years in England. 

§ Cresacre's Life. 


the judgment entertained regarding him. Judged by this rule 
Lady More must have been a Christian and generous-hearted 
woman, to whom her husband could write the following 
letter : — 

" Mistress Alice, in my most hearty wise I recommend me 
to you. And whereas I am informed by my son Heron of the 
loss of our barns and our neighbours' also [by fire] with all the 
corn that was therein ; albeit, saving God's pleasure, it is 
great pity of so much good corn lost, yet since it hath liked 
Him to send us such a chance, we must and are bounden, not 
only to be content, but also to be glad of His visitation. He 
sent us all that we have lost, and since He hath by such a chance 
taken it away again, His pleasure be fulfilled. Let us never 
grieve thereat, but take it in good worth and heartily thank 
Him as well for adversity as for prosperity. And peradventure 
we have more cause to thank Him for our loss than for our win- 
ning. For His wisdom better seeth what is good for us than 
we do ourselves. Therefore, I pray you be of good cheer, and 
take all the household with you to Church, and there thank 
God both for that He hath given us, and for that He hath 
taken away from us, and for that He hath left us, which, if it 
please Him, He can increase when He will. And if it please 
Him to leave us less yet, at His pleasure be it. 

*' I pray you to make some good ensearch what my poor 
neighbours have lost, and bid them take no thought therefor ; 
for, and I should not leave myself a spoon, there shall no 
poor neighbour of mine bear no loss happened by any chance 
in my house. I pray you be with my children and your house- 
hold merry in God. And devise somewhat with your friends 
what way were best to take for provision to be made for corn 
for our household, and for seed this year coming, if ye think it 
good that we keep the ground still in our hands, x^nd whether 
ye think it good that we shall do so or not, yet I think it were 
not best suddenly thus to leave it all up and to put away our 
folk off our farm, till we have somewhat advised us thereon. 


Howbeit if we have more now than ye shall need, and which 
can get them other masters, ye may then discharge us of them. 
But I would not that any man were suddenly sent away he wot 
ne'er whither. 

"At my coming hither I perceived none other but that I 
should tarry still with the king's grace. But now I shall (I 
think) because of this chance, get leave this next week to come 
home and see you ; and then shall we further devise together 
upon all things what order shall be best to take. And thus as 
heartily fare you well, with all our children, as ye can wish. 
At Woodstock the third day of September, by the hand of your 
loving husband, Thomas More, Knight." * 

If this letter proves that Sir Thomas More had the detach- 
ment, the love of justice and care of inferiors that we admire 
in Job, it equally proves that Lady More was not like Job's 
wife, but like the " valiant woman " of whom it is written : 
" The heart of her husband trusteth in her ". 

Again, if the widow of Mr. Middleton had occasionally a 
sharp tongue, she was no termagant. In a letter to Erasmus 
of 15th December, 1517, More writes: "My wife desires a 
million of compliments, especially for your careful wish that 
she may live many years. She says she is the more anxious 
for this as she will live the longer to plague me." t This kind 
of playful banter does not belong to a Xantippe. Harpsfield 
writes as follows : " This wife on a time after shrift bade Sir 
Thomas More be merry, ' for I have,' saith she, ' this day left 
all my shrewdness, and to-morrow I will begin afresh,' with 
merry-conceited talk, though now and then it proved very true. 
Indeed, Sir Thomas More could well digest and like it in her and 

* English Works, p. 1419. The editor adds that the fire occurred 
through the neghgence of a neighbour's carter, not through the fault of 
any of More's servants, which makes his generosity all the more striking. 
The letter was written in August, 1529, just after his return from his 
embassy at Cambrai. A few months later he was made chancellor, 
t Inter Epist. Erasm., 221, in App. 


Others ; neither was he in her debt for repaying home again 
oftentimes such kind of talk. Among other things, when he 
divers times beheld his wife what pains she took in straight 
binding up her hair to make her a fair large forehead, and with 
strait bracing in her body to make her middle small, both twain 
to her great pain, for the pride of a little foolish praise, he said 
to her : ' Forsooth, madam, if God give you not hell he shall 
do you great wrong, for it must needs be your own of very 
right, for you buy it very dear, and take very great pains 
therefor '.* 

" This wife, when she saw that Sir Thomas had no great list 
greatly to get upward in the world, neither would labour for 
office of authority, and besides that he forsook a right worship- 
ful room when it was offered him, she fell in hand with him 
and asked : ' What will you do that ye list not to put forth 
yourself as other folks do ? Will you sit still by the fire, and 
make goslings in the ashes with a stick, as children do ? 
Would God I were a man, and look what I would do.' ' Why, 
wife,' quoth her husband, 'what would you do?' 'What? by 
God, go forward with the best. For, as my mother was wont 
to say (God have mercy on her soul), it is ever better to rule 
than to be ruled. And, therefore, by God, I would not, I 
warrant you, be so foolish to be ruled when I might rule.' 
' By my troth, wife,' quoth her husband, ' in this I daresay 
you say truths for I never found you willing to be ruled 
as yet."'t 

We have now seen all the evil that can be alleged against 

* This saying is attributed by More to " a good worshipful man ". It 
is by no means certain that the saying was his own, or the lady his wife 
{English Works, 1205). 

t This last paragraph is taken by Harpsfield from More's dialogue, 
written in the Tower, called " Comfort in Tribulation " [English Works, 
p. 1224), where the lady is called "a stout master-woman ". It is not 
said to be More's wife, but the illusion is evident. I have corrected 
Harpsfield by More himself. 

DOMESTIC. - 121 

this lady, and it certainly does not justify our classing Blessed 
More amongst the ill-matched great men. * To say that 
when his time of suffering came she did not rise to the height 
of his soul, is merely to class her with nearly all her contem- 
poraries, including almost every abbess, abbot and bishop in 
the country. 

We may pass now to the other members of More's house- 
hold. Erasmus mentions two sponsi. The word is ambiguous. 
It may mean one engaged merely, or a husband, especially 
one recently married. Here it must stand for husbands. 
Erasmus had mentioned that More's eldest daughter was 
recently married. Her husband was William Roper. The 
second sponsus must have been the husband of Alice 
Middleton, More's step-daughter. This young lady had 
been educated with great care in More's house. She married 
young, and I do not find the name of her husband. After his 
death, and during More's lifetime, she took for her second 
husband, Giles (afterwards Sir Giles) Alington. t She will 
be mentioned at the time of More's imprisonment in the 
Tower as interesting herself much for her " father ". She 
appears to have lived on very affectionate terms with the 
family. It is not recorded at what period she and her 
husband ceased to be inmates of More's house. 

Of William Roper, a strange story is related by Harpsfield, 
Stapleton and Cresacre More. As Harpsfield's narrative was 
written under Roper's own eye, and dedicated to him, I will 
give it in his words : " Mr. William Roper, at what time he 

* I cannot claim in favour of Mistress Alice the following letter of 
Ammonius, because though the Leyden editor has dated it igth May, 
1515, the year should be 1511, and it refers to the first wife, who died 
shortly after it was written : Morns nostcr tncllitissitniis, cum sua facil- 
lima coujugc, qiice niinquam tiii mcm'uiit, quin tibi bene precctnr, et 
liberis ac nniversa fatnilia, ptileherritne valet (Inter. Epist. Erasm., 175). 

t See More's English Works, p. 1435, where he speaks of her 
present and her late husband. 


married with Mistress Margaret More, was a marvellous, 
zealous Protestant, and so fervent and withal so well and 
properly liked of himself and his divine learning, that he took 
the bridle into the teeth, and ran forward like a headstrong 
horse hard to be plucked back again. Neither was he con- 
tented to whisper it in hugger-mugger, but thirsted very sore 
to publish his new doctrine and divulge it, and thought 
himself very able so to do, and it were even at St. Paul's 
Cross. Yea, for the burning zeal that he bare to the further- 
ance of Luther's new broached religion, and for the pretty 
liking of himself, he longed so sore to be pulpited, that 
to have satisfied his mind he could have been contented 
to have foregone a good portion of his lands. . . . This 
fall into heresy, Mr. Roper (as he can conjecture) first did 
grow of a scruple of his own conscience, for lack of grace 
and better knowledge, as some do upon other occasions. He 
daily did use immoderate fasting and many prayers, which, 
with good discretion well-used, had not been to be misliked ; but 
using them without order and good consideration, thinking 
God thereby never to be pleased, did weary himself usque ad 
tcEdimn. Then did he understand of Luther's works brought 
into this realm, and as Eve of a curious mind, desirous to 
know both good and evil, so did he, for the strangeness 
and delectation of that doctrine, fall into great desire to 
read his works. Amongst other his works he read a book 
of Luther's De Libertate Christiana^ and another De Captivitate 
Babylonica^ and was in affection so with them bewitched, 
that he did then believe every matter set forth by Luther to 
be true. 

"And with these books' ignorance, pride, false allegations, 
sophistical reasons and arguments, and with his own corrupt 
affections, he was deceived, and fully persuaded that faith only 
did justify ; that the works of man did nothing profit ; and that, 
if man could once believe that our Saviour, Christ, shed His 
Precious Blood and died on the Cross for our sins, the same 


only belief should be sufficient for our salvation. Then thought 
he that all the ceremonies and sacraments in Christ's Church 
were very vain ; and was at length so far waded into heresy, 
and puffed up with pride, that he wished that he might be 
suffered publicly to preach. . . . Who, for his open talk and 
companying with divers of his own sect of the Stillyard and 
other merchants, was, with them, before Cardinal Wolsey, con- 
vented of heresy : which merchants, for their opinions, were 
openly, for heresy, at Paul's Cross abjured. Yet he, for love 
borne by the cardinal to Sir Thomas More, his father-in-law, 
was, with a friendly warning, discharged. And albeit he had 
married the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More, whom then 
of all the world he did during that time most abhor, though he 
was a man of most mildness and notable patience. . . . And 
these lessons he did so well like as he soon after gave over his 
fasting, prayer, his primer, and got to him a Lutheran Bible,* 
wherein upon the holy days, instead of his prayers, he spent 
his whole time. 

" And so after continued he in his heresies until upon a time 
that Sir Thomas More privately in his garden talked with his 
daughter Margaret, and said : ' Meg, I have borne a long time 
with thy husband ; I have reasoned and argued with him in 
these points of religion, and still given to him my poor fatherly 
counsel, but I perceivenoneof all this able to call him home; and 
therefore, Meg, I will no longer dispute with him, but will clean 
give him over and get me to God and pray for him '. And soon 
after, as Roper verily believed, through the great mercy of Cxod, 
at the devout prayers of Sir Thomas More, he perceived his own 
ignorance, oversight, malice and folly, and turned him again to 
the Catholic faith, wherein (God be thanked) he hath hitherto 

Notwithstanding what Harpsfield and others tell us of More's 
arguments and prayers on this occasion, some have concluded 

* Luther translated the New Testament into German in 152 1, 


that More could not at that period have been a very staunch 
CathoKc, when he allowed his daughter to marry a heretic. It 
seems to me to be pushing too far Harpsfield's expression " at 
what time he married" to force it to mean ^'before he married". 
If he became "a Protestant" (the word is used by Harpsfield 
by anticipation, for it was not then invented) shortly after his 
marriage, all is easily explained. The books of Luther that 
made so much impression on him — The Babylonian Captivity 
and Christian Liberty — only appeared in Germany at the end 
of 1520. When Erasmus, at the end of 152 1, wrote his eulogy 
of Margaret's husband, the news had not reached him of his fall 
into the new opinions of Luther. It is likely that this happened 
after his marriage, either in 1521 or 1522. Besides this: as 
obstinate Lutheranism at that time in England meant death, it 
is impossible that Sir Thomas could have allowed his favourite 
daughter to marry one already fallen into that heresy. Roper 
tells us that he resided with his father-in-law for sixteen years 
and more. If this is correct, he must have been taken into the 
family at the beginning of 15 19, when he was about twenty-three 
years old and Margaret about thirteen. She would be in her 
sixteenth year when she married him in 152 1.* Margaret 
Roper will frequently appear in this history. I pass on to the 

Elizabeth, a year younger than Margaret, married the son and 
heir of Sir John Daunsey (or Dancy). Among the sketches by 
Holbein in Her Majesty's collection is one which a former 
keeper has supposed to represent Lady Barkley. It is really a 
portrait of Elizabeth Dancy. 

Cecily, the third daughter, married Mr. Giles Heron of 
Shakelwell, or Spedwell in Hackney, son of Sir John Heron. 
Sir Thomas More received from the king, in March, 1523, a 

* In Utopia it is said : " Their women are not married before eighteen". 
We do not know why Sir Thomas departed from this rule. He probably 
thought an early marriage better than a long courtship. 


grant of the wardship of this young gentleman.* He was 
foreman of the jury that tried Anne Boleyn ; and he was 
martyred at Tyburn, 4th August, 1540. 

John, the youngest child and only son of Sir Thomas, is but 
little known to us. Dibdin says : " It seems that More's wife 
wished very much for a boy; at last she brought him this son, 
who proved to be but of slender capacity, upon which Sir Thomas 
is reported to have said to his wife that she had prayed so long 
for a boy that she had now one who would be a boy as long as 
he lived ".f If Mr. Dibdin had remarked that John's mother 
died before he was a year old, he would have seen that More 
could not have made such a remark to her — at least, with the 
sense indicated. Contemporary writers, on the contrary, all 
speak of the son as a studious youth of good abihties. Eras- 
mus dedicated to him his edition of Aristotle^ with a very com- 
phmentary letter, and Grynaeus his Plato and other works. 
Cresacre More writes : "Sir Thomas's son, my grandfather, 
married Anne Cresacre, sole daughter and heir of Edward 
Cresacre (deceased) of Baronborough, in the county of York, 
esquire, whom Sir Thomas bought of the king, being his ward, 
upon error for another body's land lying in the same town, as 
was afterwards proved ". 

Margaret Gigey, or Gigs, appears to have been an orphan 
girl and a relative of the family. % She was treated in every 
way as one of his own children. She became singularly learned, 
and married Dr. Clements, who was also an inmate of More's 

* Letters and Papers, iii. 2900; iv. 314. Such grants were profitable, 
and were one of the means at the king's disposal of rewarding his ser- 
vants or his favourites. On 23rd January, 1527, More received the custody 
of John Morton, an idiot {Letters and Papers, iv. 2758). 

t Dibdin quotes Old Biog. Brit. v. 3168. 

it " Cognata, " in the family picture. In the Holbein crayons in Her 
Majesty's collection is a portrait of Margaret Gigs, or Clements. It is 
erroneously inscribed (not by Holbein) " Mother Jak," by which name 
Mrs. Jackson, nurse of Edward VI., was known. 


house. She had all the affection of a daughter towards her 
benefactor, and loved to relate to Stapleton, in her old age, 
little traits of More's piety and other virtues. Amongst other 
things she said she would now and then commit some slight 
fault for the pleasure of drawing down on herself his gentle and 
sweet correction. Twice only throughout his life did she see 
him really angry.* The husband of this lady, John Clements, 
had been taken into More's family from St. Paul's School, 
probably at the recommendation of Dean Colet, its founder. 
He fulfilled the high expectation that had been formed of his 
virtue and ability. He seems to have acted as tutor in his 
patron's family while he pursued his own Latin and Greek 
studies. He became professor of Greek at Oxford, t but for- 
sook his chair for the study of medicine. He suffered exile 
for the faith, both under Edward VI. and Elizabeth. :J: 

Another inmate w\as John Harris, who acted partly as More's 
secretary, partly as tutor. He also is said to have been learned 
in Greek and Latin. He married Dorothy Colley, who was 
lady's maid to Mrs. Roper, and altogether worthy of such a 

Nor must Henry Patenson, the "fool," be forgotten in the 
account of More's household, since More himself has rendered 
him famous, both by introducing him into the family picture 
and by several stories about him in his various works. In the 
entertainment of a domestic fool, More not only conformed to 
a fashion, but followed his own judgment, for he thus writes of 
the Utopians : " They have singular delight and pleasure in 

* Stapleton, Vita, cap. g. 

t More writes of him in the highest possible terms (see Stapleton, cap. 

Ij: "John Clement and his wife Margaret," writes Sander, "had one son, 
named Thomas, and four daughters, all Greek and Latin scholars, of 
whom Dorothy is a Poor Clare at Louvain, and Margaret, at St. Ursula's 
Convent there, though a young nun and an Englishwoman among Flem- 
ings, is superioress over eighty sisters by their pre-election " {De Vis. 


Fools. And as it is a great reproach to do any of them hurt or 
injury, so they prohibit not to take pleasure of fooHshness, for 
that, they think, doth much good to the fools. And if any man 
be so sad and stern that he cannot laugh, neither at their words 
nor at their deeds, none of them be committed to his tuition, 
for fear lest he would not intreat them gently and favourably 
enough ; to whom they should bring no delectation (for other 
goodness in them is there none), much less any profit should 
they yield him."* 

However, when More became chancellor, he dispensed with 
his jester and gave him to Sir John More, his father, f At his 
father's death Sir Thomas gave him to the Lord Mayor, on 
condition that he should also serve his successors during their 
time of office. % 

Section II. Education. 

We may turn now to Mora's method of educating his children. 
We have a very full exposition both of his principles and 
practice in a Latin letter written to William Gunnell, a learned 
ecclesiastic of Cambridge, w^ho held for a time the office of 
tutor in his family. The letter bears no date of year. " I have 
received, my dear Gunnell, your letter, elegant, as your letters 
always are, and full of affection. From your letter I perceive 
your devotion to my children ; I argue their diligence from 
their own. Every one of their letters pleased me, but I was 
particularly pleased because I notice that Elizabeth shows a 

* Robinson's translation. 

t Stapleton Vita, cap. 9. 

:J: Lord Herbert, Life of Henry VIII. He was of course a "servus" or 
bondsman, as he is marked on the family picture. More tells us of 
another fool or madman, named Cliff, who lived for many years in his 
house, and got into some trouble for breaking off the head of the Infant 
Jesus in the arms of Our Lady, on London Bridge ; " for," says Sir Thomas, 
" he got the same kind of notions into his head in his madness, that the 
Lutherans have in their sadness " {English Works, p. 935). 


gentleness and self-command in the absence of her mother, * 
which some children would not show in her presence. Let her 
understand tiat such conduct delights me more than all possible 
letters I coulJ receive from anyone. Though I prefer learning 
joined with vii 'ue, to all the treasures of kings, yet renown for 
learning, when '.t. is not united with a good life is nothing else 
than splendid ajid notorious infamy : this would be specially the 
case in a woman. Since erudition in women is a new thing and 
a reproach to the sloth of men, many will gladly assail it, and 
impute to literature what is really the fault of nature, thinking 
from the vices of the learned to get their own ignorance virtue. On the other hand, if a woman (and this 
I desire and hope with you as their teacher for all my daughters) 
to eminent virtue shbuld add an outwork of even moderate 
skill in literature, I think she will have more real profit than if 
she had obtained the- riches of Croesus and the beauty of Helen> 
I do not say this because of the glory which will be hers, though 
glory follows virtue as a shadow follows a body, but because the 
reward of wisdom is too solid to be lost like riches or to decay 
like beauty, since it depends on the intimate conscience of what 
is right, not on the talk of men, than which nothing is more 
foolish or mischievous. 

'' It belongs to a good man, no doubt, to avoid infamy, but 
to lay himself out for renown is the conduct of a man who is 
not only proud, but ridiculous and miserable. A soul must be 
without peace which is ever fluctuating between elation and dis- 
appointment from the opinions of men. Among all the bene- 
fits that learning bestows on men, there is none more excellent 
than this, that by the study of books we are taught in that very 
study to seek not praise, but utility. Such has been the teach- 

* The edition of Stapleton of i68g has patrc, that of 1588 matre. I have 
translated all the letters myself, instead of giving Cresacre's translation, 
lest the old English should make the reader think he has More's own 
words ; and because I find that Cresacre's translation, with all its charms^ 
is not always correct. 


ing of the most learned men, especially of philosophers, who 
are the guides of human life, although some may have abused 
learning, like other good things, simply to court empty glory 
and popular renown. 

" I have dwelt so much on this matter, my dear Gunnell, 
because of what you say in your letter, that Margaret's lofty 
character should not be abased. In this judgment I quite 
agree with you ; but to me, and, no doubt, to you also, that 
man would seem to abase a generous character who should 
accustom it to admire what is vain and low. He, on the con- 
trary, raises the character who rises to virtue and true goods, 
and who looks down with contempt from the contemplation of 
what is sublime, on those shadows of good things which almost 
all mortals,* through ignorance of truth, greedily snatch at as 
if they were true goods. 

" Therefore, my dear Gunnell, since we must walk by this 
road, I have often begged not you only, who, out of your affec- 
tion for my children, would do it of your own accord, nor my 
wife, who is sufificiendy urged by her maternal love for them, 
which has been proved to me in so many ways, but all my 
friends, to warn my children to avoid the precipices of pride 
and haughtiness, and to walk in the pleasant meadows of 
modesty ; not to be dazzled at the sight of gold ; not to lament 
that they do not possess what they erroneously admire in 
others ; not to think more of themselves for gaudy trappings, 
nor less for the want of them ; neither to deform the beauty 
that nature has given them by neglect, nor to try to heighten 
it by artifice ; to put virtue in the first place, learning in the 
second ; and in their studies to esteem most whatever may 
teach them piety towards God, charity to all, and modesty and 
Christian humility in themselves. By such means they will 

* Monialcs (nuns) is in the edition of Frankfort, 1689. There is 
nothing in the context to justify any allusion to nuns. It is clear that 
the word was mortalcs, as in edition 1588. 



receive from God the reward of an innocent life, and in the 
assured expectation of it, will view death without horror, and 
meanwhile possessing solid joy, will neither be puffed up by 
the empty praise of men, nor dejected by evil tongues. These 
I consider the genuine fruits of learning, and, though I admit 
that all literary men do not possess them, I would maintain 
that those who give themselves to study with such views, will 
easily attain their end and become perfect. 

" Nor do I think that the harvest will be much affected 

whether it is a man or a woman who sows the field. They 

both have the same human nature, which reason differentiates 

from that of beasts ; both, therefore, are equally suited for 

those studies by which reason is perfectioned, and becomes 

fruitful like a ploughed land on which the seed of good lessons 

has been sown. If it be true that the soil of woman's brain be 

bad, and apter to bear bracken than corn, by which saying 

many keep women from study, I think, on the contrary, that a 

woman's wit is on that account all the more diligently to be 

cultivated, that nature's defect may be redressed by industry. 

This was the opinion of the ancients, of those who were most 

prudent as well as most holy. Not to speak of the rest, St. 

Jerome and St. Augustine not only exhorted excellent matrons 

and most noble virgins to study, but also, in order to assist 

them, diligently explained the abstruse meanings of Holy 

Scripture, and wrote for tender girls letters replete with so 

much erudition, that now-a-days old men, who call themselves 

professors of sacred science, can scarcely read them correctly, 

much less understand them. Do you, my learned Gunnell, 

have the kindness to see that my daughters thoroughly learn 

these works of those holy men. . . . 

" I fancy I hear you object that these precepts, though true, 
are beyond the capacity of my young children, since you will 
scarcely find a man, however old and advanced, whose mind is 
so firmly set as not to be tickled sometimes with desire of 
glory. But, dear Gunnell, the more I see the difficulty of 


getting rid of this pest of pride, the more do I see the necessity 
of setting to work at it from childhood. For I find no other 
reason why this evil clings so to our hearts, than because 
almost as soon as we are born, it is sown in the tender minds 
of children by their nurses, it is cultivated by their teachers, 
and brought to its full growth by their parents ; no one teach- 
ing even what is good without, at the same time, awakening 
the expectation of praise, as of the proper reward of virtue. 
Thus we grow accustomed to make so much of praise, that 
while we study how to please the greater number (who will 
always be the worst), we grow ashamed of being good (with the 
few). That this plague of vainglory may be banished far from 
my children, I do desire that you, my dear Gunnell, and their 
mother and all their friends, would sing this song to them, and 
repeat it, and beat it into their heads, that vainglory is a thing 
despicable, and to be spit upon ; and that there is nothing 
more sublime than that humble modesty so often praised by 
Christ ; and this your prudent charity will so enforce as to 
teach virtue rather than reprove vice, and make them love 
good advice instead of hating it. To this purpose nothing 
will more conduce than to read to them the lessons of the 
ancient Fathers, who, they know, cannot be angry with them, 
and, as they honour them for their sanctity, they must needs be 
much moved by their authority. If you will teach something 
of this sort, in addition to their lesson in Sallust — to Margaret 
and Elizabeth, as being more advanced than John and Cecily 
— you will bind me and them still more to you. And thus 
you wnll bring about that my children, who are dear to me by 
nature, and still more dear by learning and virtue, will become 
most dear by that advance in knowledge and good conduct. 
Adieu. From the Court on the vigil of Pentecost." 

It will be seen from this and his other letters that while More 
taught his children to hate vainglory and not to consider praise 
as the end for which knowledge or virtue should be cultivated, 
he was far from condemning in a child the desire of a virtuous 


father's approbation, and he bestowed it most liberally. More 
will ever stand foremost in the rank of the defenders of female 
culture ; but his example would be perhaps rashly quoted in 
proof that the education of women should be in all respects 
the same as that of men, or that familiarity with the ancient 
classic writers is essential to all true culture, for the field of both 
science and literature was so restricted in his days, that the 
woman who was not trained to read Plato and Sophocles, or at 
least Livy and Sallust, was limited to her needlework and her 
viol, or to Chaucer and Boccacio and the " Romaunt de la 
Rose " — works certainly less conducive to purity of life than the 
masterpieces of the old heathen world. 

It is not likely that the above letter was intended merely for 
Gunnell. It would be copied out by the children, translated, 
and perhaps learned by heart, and would be the subject of their 
Latin letters to their father. For More never ceased to superin- 
tend the education of each one of them. His letters to his 
children were preserved as precious treasures in the family, and 
several of them have come down to us by the care of Stapleton. 

I would not willingly either omit or abridge these letters, which 
are among his most venerated relics. 

"Thomas More to his whole school, — 

" See what a compendious salutation I have found, to save 
both time and paper, which would otherwise have been wasted 
in reciting the names of each one of you, and my labour would 
have been to no purpose, since, though each of you is dear to 
me by some special title, of which I could have omitted none in 
a set and formal salutation, no one is dearer to me by any title 
than each one of you by that of scholar. Your zeal for know- 
ledge binds me to you almost more closely than the ties of 
blood. I rejoice that Mr. Drew has returned safe, for I was 
anxious, as you know, about him. If I did not love you so 
much I should be really envious of your happiness in having so 
many and such excellent tutors. But I think you have no 
longer any needj^of Mr. Nicholas, since you have learnt what- 


ever he had to teach you about astronomy. I hear you are so 
far advanced in that science that you can not only point out 
the polar-star or the dog-star, or any of the constellations, 
but are able also — which requires a skilful and profound 
astrologer — among all those leading heavenly bodies, to dis- 
tinguish the sun from the moon ! Go forward, then, in that 
new and admirable science by which you ascend to the stars. 
But while you gaze on them assiduously, consider that this holy 
time of Lent warns you, and that beautiful and holy poem of 
Boetius keeps singing in your ears, to raise your mind also to 
heaven, lest the soul look downwards to the earth, after the 
manner of brutes, while the body looks upwards. Farewell, my 
dearest. From Court, the 23rd March." 

Another letter is on the subject of letter-writing. Stapleton 
says that the original, from which he printed, was almost worn 
to pieces, so frequently had it been read. 

"Thomas More to his dearest children, and to Margaret 
Giggs, whom he numbers amongst his own, — 

" The Bristol merchant brought me your letters the day after 
he left you, with which I was extremely delighted. Nothing 
can come from your workshop, however rude or unfinished, that 
will not give me more pleasure than the most accurate thing 
that another can write. So much does my affection for you 
recommend whatever you write to me. Indeed, without any 
recommendation, your letters are capable of pleasing by their 
own merits, their wit and pure Latinity. There was not one 
of your letters that did not please me extremely ; but, to con- 
fess ingenuously what I feel, the letter of my son John pleased 
me best, both because it was longer than the others, and be- 
cause he seems to have given to it more labour and study. 
For he not only put out his matter prettily and composed in 
fairly polished language, but he plays with me both pleasantly 
and cleverly, and turns my jokes on myself wittily enough. 
And this he does not only merrily, but with due moderation, 
showing that he does not forget that he is joking with his 


father, and that he is cautious not to give offence at the same 
time that he is eager to give dehght. 

" Now I expect from each of you a letter ahiiost every day. I 
will not admit such excuses as John is wont to make, want of 
time, sudden departure of the letter-carrier, or, want of some- 
thing to write about. No one hinders you from writing, but, 
on the contrary, all are urging you to do it. And that you may 
not keep the letter-carrier waiting, why not anticipate his com- 
ing, and have your letters written and sealed, ready for anyone 
to take? How can a subject be wanting when you write to 
me, since I am glad to hear of your studies or of your games, 
and you will please me most if, when there is nothing to write 
about, you write about that nothing at great length. Nothing 
can be easier for you, since you are girls, loquacious by nature, 
who have always a world to say about nothing at all. One 
thing, however, I admonish you, whether you write serious 
matters or the merest trifles, it is my wish that you write every- 
thing diligently and thoughtfully. It will be no harm, if you 
first write the whole in English, for then you will have much 
less trouble in turning it into Latin ; not having to look for the 
matter, your mind will be intent only on the language. That, 
however, I leave to your own choice, whereas I strictly enjoin 
that whatever you have composed you carefully examine before 
writing it out clean ; and in this examination, first scrutinise 
the whole sentence and then every part of it. Thus, if any 
solecisms have escaped you, you will easily detect them. 
Correct these, write out the whole letter again, and even then 
examine it once more, for sometimes, in rewriting, faults slip 
in again that one had expunged. By this diligence your little 
trifles will become serious matters ; for while there is nothing 
so neat and witty that will not be made insipid by silly and 
inconsiderate loquacity, so also there is nothing in itself so 
insipid, that you cannot season with grace and wit if you give 
a little thought to i:. Farewell, my dear children. From the 
Court, the 3rd September." 


In one of his letters to his eldest daughter he writes : " I 
beg you, Margaret, tell me about the progress you are al 
making in your studies. For I assure you that, rather than 
allow my children to be idle and slothful, I would make a 
sacrifice of wealth, and bid adieu to other cares and business, 
to attend to my children and my family, amongst whom none 
is more dear to me than yourself, my beloved daughter." 

A\'e have seen that, when More was a boy, his father stinted 
him in money, and that he used to speak gratefully of this wise 
severity when he grew up. If filial love made him thus speak, 
his paternal love expressed itself differently : " You ask, my 
dear Margaret, for money with too much bashfulness and 
timidity, since you are asking from a father w^ho is eager to 
give, and since you have written to me a letter such that I 
would not only repay each line of it with a golden philippine, 
as Alexander did the verses of Cherilos, but, if my means were 
as great as my desire, I would reward each syllable with two 
gold ounces. As it is, I send only what you have asked, but 
would have added more, only that as I am eager to give, so am 
I desirous to be asked and coaxed by my daughter, especially 
by you, whom virtue and learning have made so dear to my 
soul. So the sooner you spend this money well, as you are 
wont to do, and the sooner you ask for more, the more you 
will be sure of pleasing your father." 

Among the few pieces added to the second edition of More's 
Epigrams in 1520 is an epistle in Latin elegiac verse to his 
children. It was composed on horseback, in the rain, while 
his beast was stumbling in the deep ruts or wading through a 
ford. It must be taken then, says the writer, as a proof of the 
affection that will not allow him to forget his children even 
amid such miseries to himself. He reminds them how, on 
returning from his journeys, he has ever brought back some 
cakes or fruit, or piece of silk to deck them ; how he has 
always given them plenty of kisses and but very few strokes of 
the rod, the rod itself being only a bundle of peacock's feathers. 


Though he has by nature a tender and loving heart towards his 
children, their progress in virtue and learning has made it far 
more loving, and he begs them to go on in the same way until 
even his present love may seem nothing by comparison with 
what he will then feel. 

Efficitote (potestis enim) virtutibus isdem 
Ut posthac videar vos nee amare modo. 

Stapleton has preserved several letters written by More to his 
favourite daughter, Margaret, most like to himself (says his bio- 
grapher) in stature, face, voice, talent and general character. 
He had also several pieces of her composition, both in prose 
and verse, which he feared to print, as not bearing directly on 
hg- father's life. For the same reason I pass by some of the 
letters, and conclude this account of ]\Iore's education of his 
children by one which show^s that even marriage was con- 
sidered no obstacle to the pursuit of knowledge and the study 
of literature : — 

" Thomas More to his most dear daughter Margaret, — 

" There was no reason, my most sweet child, why you should 
have put off writing for a day, because in your great self-distrust 
you feared lest your letter should be such that I could not read 
it without distaste. Even had it not been perfect, yet the 
honour of your sex would have gained you pardon from any, 
while to a father even a blemish will seem beautiful in the face 
of a child. But, indeed, my dear Margaret, your letter was so 
elegant and polished and gave so little cause for you to dread 
the judgment of an indulgent parent, that you might have 
despised the censorship even of an angry Momus. 

" You tell me that Nicholas, who is so fond of you, and so 
learned in astronomy, has begun again with you the system of 
the heavenly bodies. I am grateful to him and I congratulate 
you in your good fortune ; for in the space of one month, with 
only a slight labour, you will thus learn thoroughly these sub- 
lime wonders of the Eternal Workman, which so many men of 


illustrious and almost superhuman intellect have only discovered 
with hot toil and study, or rather with cold shiverings and 
nightly vigils in the open air in the course of many ages. 

" I am, therefore, delighted to read that you have made up 
your mind to give yourself diligently to philosophy, and to 
make up by your earnestness in future for what you have lost 
in the past by neglect. My darling Margaret, I indeed have 
never found you idling, and your unusual learning in almost 
every kind of literature shows that you have been making active 
progress. So I take your words as an example of the great 
modesty that makes you prefer to accuse yourself falsely of 
sloth, rather than to boast of your diligence ; unless your mean- 
ing is that you will give yourself so earnestly to study, that your 
past industry will seem like indolence by comparison. If this 
is your meaning nothing could be more delightful to me, or 
more fortunate, my sweetest daughter, for you. 

" Though I earnestly hope that you will devote the rest of 
your life to medical science and sacred literature, so that you 
may be well furnished for the whole scope of human life, which 
is to have a healthy soul in a healthy body, and I know that 
you have already laid the foundations of these studies, and there 
will be always opportunity to continue the building ; yet I 
am of opinion that you may, with great advantage, give some 
years of your yet flourishing youth to humane letters and liberal 
studies. And this both because youth is more fitted for a 
struggle with difficulties ; and because it is uncertain whether 
you will ever in future have the benefit of so sedulous, affec- 
tionate and learned a teacher. I need not say that by such 
studies a good judgment is formed or perfected. 

" It would be a delight, my dear Margaret, to me to converse 
long with you on these matters ; but I have just been inter- 
rupted and called away by the servants, who have brought in 
supper. I must have regard to others, else to sup is not so 
sweet as to talk with you. Farewell, my dearest child, and salute 
for me my most gentle son, your husband. I am extremely 


glad that he is following the same course of study as yourself. 
I am ever wont to persuade you to yield in everything to your 
husband ; now, on the contrary, I give you full leave to strive 
to get before him in the knowledge of the celestial system.* 
Farewell again. Salute your whole company, but especially 
your tutor." 

Such letters as these make the reader almost as much in love 
with Margaret Roper as her father was ; and certainly whatever 
little romance is wanting in the courtships of this singular man 
is made up for in the intensity of affection poured out from the 
father's heart on this gracious child from her cradle to his 

It is clear that Sir Thomas had a little Utopia of his own in 
his family. He was making an experiment in education, and 
he was delighted with its success. The fame of his learned 
daughters became European, through the praises of Erasmus ; 
and was so great in England that in 1529, when they were all 
married ladies, they were invited by the king to hold a kind of 
philosophical tournament in his presence. We learn this from a 
letter of John Palsgrave, who was a prebendary of St. Paul's, and 
tutor to the Duke of Richmond, Henry's son. He writes to 
More in July, 1529 : " when your daughters disputed on philo- 
sophy afore the King's Grace, I would it had been my fortune 
to be present " ; t an ineffectual wish in which the writer of 
this memoir heartily joins.;]: 

Section HI. Home and Parish. 
From Bucklesbury More had removed (it is said) to Crosby 

*■ /;/ pcvnosccnda spJucra. 

t Letters and Papers, iv. 5806. 

:J: The treatise Of the Sphere is referred to more than once in this chap- 
ter. More was fond of astronomy, and we know that the king would 
take him on the leads at night and discourse with him about the 
heavenly bodies. There is a rather amusing passage in one of his con- 
troversial works giving an account of the geocentric system then taught. 
It will be found in App. D. of this work. 


Place, in Bishopsgate Street (Without),* and in 1523 he pur- 
chased a piece of land in Chelsea, then more properly called 
Chels-hithe, a small village utterly separated from London, and 
even from Westminster. The approach was principally by the 
river Thames, a clear and pleasant stream bordered by gardens 
and palaces. Here More laid out a large garden stretching 
down to the river, and l)uilt hiimself a mansion about a hundred 
yards from the river side, " commodious rather than magnifi- 
cent," says Erasmus. Every vestige of More's house has 
disappeared. After his attainder and death it passed through 
the hands of a long series of proprietors, until it was pulled 
down in 1740, by Sir Hans Sloane. Beaufort Row runs over 
or near its site. In course of time, when, besides his daughters 
and their husbands, his son and his son's wife, no less than 
eleven grandchildren resided with him, he erected another 
house, detached from the first, and called the New Building. 
In this was his domestic oratory, his library, and study. 

In his Utopia, More complained of the great number of 
retainers living idle and vicious lives in the service of noblemen, 
and becoming the pest of the country as thieves and murderers 
when out of service, from being unfit or unwilling to work. 
Stapleton tells us how carefully he avoided this evil in the 
management of his own household. It was one of the 
necessities of his dignity at court that he should have several 
attendants when he went out. \Vhen they were not engaged 
in this service he would not allow them to remain idle. He 
divided his garden into i)ortions, to each of which he assigned 
one of his men as its cultivator. Some learnt to sing, others 
to play on the organ ; but he absolutely forbade games of cards 
or dice, even to the young gentlemen in his house. The maid- 
servants lived quite apart from the men, and they seldom met. 

* A part of Crosby Place still stands, and is one of the most interesting 
relics of Old London, From More it passed to his rich friend Antonio 
Bonvisi, the merchant of Lucca, and from him to William Roper, and 
William Rastell. 


When he was at home he had night prayers for his family, at 
which he presided, even when he was chancellor. He recited 
with them especially the three psalms, Miser-ere^ Ad Te 
Do7nine levavi, and Dens misereatiir nostri with the Salve 
Regina and Collect^ and the De Frofundis for the holy souls. 

Writing in one of his controversial works against Luther's 
and Tindale's assertions as to Christian liberty, he says there is 
no man so mad as to doubt " that servants in a man's house- 
hold are so bound to obey their master's lawful commandments 
that if they would refuse at his bidding to kneel down and say 
certain prayers with him to bedward, all the whole house 
together, till he should show them some such commandment 
in scripture, they were well worthy to go to the devil for their 
proud disobedience in the defence of their false evangelical 
freedom ". From this he argues as to the authority of the 
Church, and the " lewd lither losils that list not to rise, but lie 
still in bed and say that are not bound by men's traditions " 
when a general procession is ordered.* 

Every year on Good Friday he called the whole of his family 
in to the New Building and there had the Passion read to 
to them, generally by his secretary, John Harris. More would 
sometimes interrupt the reading with a few words of pious 
meditation. At table one of his daughters intoned after the 
monastic fashion f some passage of Holy Scripture, after 
which a short commentary by Nicholas of Lyra or one of the 
Fathers was read. Then he would propose a question concerning 
the passage read, and there would be a friendly discussion. This 
was done especially if any learned guest was present, and it 
need scarcely be said all this was in Latin. Then he would 
begin in English a joyous recreation, in which his fool or jester, 
Henry Patenson, would take part. The task of reading at table 

* English Works, p. 508. 

+ Intonando, more prorsus ecclesiastico vel potius monastico, nam et 
subjiciebatur in fine : Tu autetn, et legebatur quousque daretur signum. 


was taken by turns by the unmarried children ; after their 
marriage by Margaret Giggs. 

It has been said that he had his domestic chapel, with licence 
to have the holy sacrifice offered within it. This chapel was to 
him a favourite place of resort. There, according to Roper, he 
used to spend the greater part of every Friday, when at home, 
meditating on the Passion, his favourite subject, with prayers 
and sacred penitential exercises. When his daughter Margaret 
was at the very point of death with the sweating sickness, and 
the doctors had given up all hopes. Sir Thomas, " going up 
after his usual manner into his aforesaid New Building, there 
in his chapel on his knees with tears most devoutly besought 
Almighty God that it would like His goodness, unto whom 
nothing is impossible, if it were His blessed will to vouchsafe 
graciously to hear his petition ". During his prayer, a remedy 
that the doctors had not tried came into his mind. It proved 
effectual, though " God's marks," or the signs of death, were 
already on his daughter's body ; "by her father's most fervent 
prayers," says his grateful son-in-law, "as it was thought, was 
she miraculously recovered ; whom if it had pleased God at 
that time to have taken to His mercy, her father said he would 
never have meddled in worldly matters more ". 

His love of his domestic oratory and family devotions did 
not in any way cause him to neglect his parish church. In 
defending the use and sanctity of churches against the false 
spirituality of the heretics of his own days More has written : 
"Albeit that some good men here and there, one among ten 
thousand, as St. Paul and St. Anthony, do live all heavenly, 
far out of all fleshly company — as far from all occasions of 
worldly wretchedness, as from the common temple or parish 
church — yet if churches and congregations of Christian people 
resorting together to God's service were once abolished and 
put away, we were like to have few good temples of God in 
men's souls, but all would within a while wear away clean and 
clearly fall to nought. And this prove we by experience, that 


those which be the best temples of God in their souls they most 
use to come to the temple of stone ; and those that least come 
there be well known for very ribalds and unthrifts, and openly 
perceived for the temples of the devil. And this not in our 
days only, but so hath been from Christ's days hither." * 

" In the parish church of Chelsea," says Stapleton, " he had 
built a chapel and furnished it copiously with everything 
necessary for the worship of God.t In this matter he was 
very generous and gave many vessels of gold and silver to his 
church, being wont to say : 'The good give and the bad steal '. 
In his parish church he would put on a surplice and take his 
part with the choir."J Once when he was chancellor of the 
kingdom, the Duke of Norfolk found him wearing a surplice 
and singing. " To whom, after service," writes Roper, " as 
they went homeward arm in arm, the duke said : ' God's body, 
God's body, my Lord Chancellor ! What ! a parish clerk — a 
parish clerk ! You dishonour the king and his office.' 
' Nay,' quote Sir Thomas More, smiling on the duke, ' Your 
Grace may not think that the king, your master and mine, 
will with me for serving God his Master be offended, or thereby 
account his office dishonoured.' " 

"Sometimes," adds Stapleton, "he served the priest's Mass, 
and sometimes in the public supplications he carried the 
Cross before the priest, not refusing or blushing to perform 
the office of a verger, rejoicing rather like David to become 
still more vile and humble in his own eyes. Though he did 
not carry the Cross when chancellor, yet he followed in the 

* English Works, p. 122. 

t This was the south aisle. 

X Sacerdoti canenti concinebat. Cancrc, in old ecclesiastical language 
does not always mean to sing the psalms and prayers in the Divine 
Office, but " to say mass ". Even a low Mass offered in a low voice was 
said to be sung. Hence a chapel for such a Mass was called a chantry. 
Yet here Stapleton is speaking of the choir. He mentions serving at 
Mass subsequently. 


rogation processions round the parish, and though the walk 
was long and difficult, and he was asked by his friends to 
ride, on account of his dignity, he always refused, saying : 
' My Lord goes on foot, I will not follow Him on horseback '." 

More was fortunate in his parish priest. John Larke, whom 
he had appointed to the rectory of Chelsea in 1530, laid down 
his life rather than defile his soul with the oath of the royal 
supremacy, the pastor being no doubt strengthened to this 
noble martyrdom by the example and prayers of this leader 
of his flock. Both now are honoured as Blessed by the 
Church, having been joined together in the Decree of 29th 
December, 1886. 

Stapleton writes as follows of More's charity and almsgiving: 
" He used himself to go through the back lanes, and inquire 
into the state of poor families ; and he would relieve their 
distress, not by scattering a few small coins as is the general 
custom, but when he ascertained a real need, by two, three 
or four gold pieces. When his official position and duties 
prevented this personal attention, he would send some of his 
family to dispense his alms, especially to the sick and the 
aged. This office often fell to Margaret Gigs, and it was 
especially at the time of the great feasts of the Church that 
these visitations were made. He very often invited to his 
table his poorer neighbours, receiving them (not condescend- 
ingly but) familiarly and joyously ; he rarely invited the rich, 
and scarcely ever the nobility. In his parish of Chelsea he 
hired a house, in which he gathered many infirm, poor and 
old people, and maintained them at his own expense. When 
More was away, his daughter, Margaret, had the care of this 
house. He even went so far as to receive into his own family 
and maintain, a poor gentlewoman, a widow named Paula, 
who had expended all she had in an unsuccessful lawsuit. 
To widows and orphans, when he practised at the bar, he 
even gave his services gratuitously." * 

* Vita, cap. 6. 


Section IV. Portraits. 

To conclude these details of domestic and parochial life, before 
we follow More in his public career, I will give some account of 
the picture by which the family group is made familiar to us. 
Erasmus, while living in Basle, had made the acquaintance of 
Hans Holbein, the younger. Holbein had been accus- 
tomed to work for the corporation, and was also em- 
ployed by Froben the publisher in illustrating some of his 
books. But when the heresy of CEcolampadius prevailed in 
that city in 1525 and 1526, so great was the iconoclastic fury 
of the mob, that the painters business came to an end. At 
this time he heard of England, as a place where his art would 
be better appreciated and rewarded. Erasmus was living in 
Fribourg. From him Holbein obtained an introduction to Sir 
Thomas More, and with it arrived in England towards the end 
of 1526. In a letter, dated i8ih December of that year, More 
replies to Erasmus: "Your painter is a wonderful artist, but 
I fear he may not find England so fertile a field as he 
expected. I will do my best that he may not find it barren." * 

More was true to his promise, and it was owing in great 
measure to his friendship that Holbein attained both wealth 
and celebrity. Holbein brought with him two portraits of 

* Inter Epist. Erasm., 334, in App. I have consulted with regard to 
the portraits of More, Dr. Alfred Woltmann's Holbein and his times 
(Eng. tr. 1872), Wormun's Holbein and Hans Holbein, by J. 
Cundall (1882). The letter quoted above, alluding to Holbein, is (as 
usual), misdated as to the year by the editor of Erasmus. He gives it 
as iSth Dec, 1525. Dr. Woltmann places it in 1524, and remarks that 
it is dated "from the Court at Greenwich," and that the court was at 
Greenwich in the Christmas of 1524, but not in 1525. The correct date, 
however, is 1526. In that year also the king was to arrive at Greenwich 
on the igth Dec, and More had no doubt preceded him by a day 
{Letters and Papers, iv. 2712). That the letter belongs to 1526 is proved 
by the reference to the second part of the " Hyperaspistes of Erasmus," 
which only appeared that year. Dr. Woltmann admits that Holbein did 
not reach England until 1526. He therefore needlessly conjectured that 
the pictures spoken of by More had been sent in advance. 


Erasmus, one of which is said to be in the possession of the 
Earl of Radnor at Longford Castle, near Salisbury. His 
work was a better recommendation than the letter of Erasmus, 
and through More's influence, though he did not as yet 
get known at court, several great ecclesiastics and noble- 
men sat for their portraits. It was on the occasion of this 
visit to England that he painted his exquisite portrait of 
Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, now in Lambeth. Fisher, 
also, the Bishop of Rochester, sat to him, and though no 
picture of the holy martyr by the hand of Holbein is now in 
existence, there are two sketches in crayon, one in the Queen's 
Windsor collection, the other in the British Museum.* It is 
asserted by Van Mander, the first biographer of Holbein, that 
during his stay in England he was a guest of More's. Though 
this is in accordance with More's well-known hospitality, the 
assertion rests on no historical grounds, and Van Mander 
makes so many mistakes about this period, that it is clear he 
had no authentic information ; nor was Holbein altogether, 
either in faith or morals, a man in whose society More would 
have found pleasure, however much he admired his art. Of 
course. More himself gave him his first commission. The 
exquisite portrait, which was kindly exhibited by Mr. Henry 
Huth in the National Historical Portrait Exhibition of 1866, 
and again by Mr. Edward Huth in the Tudor Exhibition of 
1890, bears on the table on which More is leaning the date 
1527. More was not then Lord High Chancellor, but he was 
both Treasurer of the Household and Chancellor of the Duchy 
of Lancaster. A heavy gold chain round his neck indicates one 
or other of these dignities. t The portrait is a half-length 

* It was Holbein's custom to make a rapid sketch on paper, from which 
he worked leisurely on canvas. His eye and his pencil were unerring. 

t The Collar of S.S., instituted by Henry IV., was a Lancastrian badge. 
It was totally distinct from the collar of knighthood (see Cussan's 
Hiindbook of Heraldry, p. 240 (3rd ed.), and Retrospective Review (2nd 
series) ii. 500). 



figure nearly life-size. The face is clean shaved, and turned to 
the right of the spectator. Beneath the lappets of the cap is 
shown some dark brown hair. The dress is handsome — a 
dark green coat, with deep fur collar and crimson sleeves. The 
hands, lightly joined, lean against a table — a ring is on the first 
finger of the left hand, the right holds a book. 

Besides this portrait, Holbein painted a large family group, 
representing Sir John and Sir Thomas, Lady More, the three 
married daughters and the son; Anne Cresacre, young John More's 
fiancee; and Margaret Giggs, his adopted daughter, the wife 
of Dr. John Clements. The Rev. John Lewis of Maidstone, 
who edited Roper's Life of More in 1729, describes as follows 
the picture, which he saw in March, 17 17, at Well Hall, the 
seat of the Roper family at Eltham, in Kent: ''The room 
which is here represented seemed to me to be a large dining- 
room. At the upper end stands a chamber organ on a cup- 
board, with a curtain drawn before it. On each end of the 
cupboard, which is covered with a carpet of tapestry, stands a 
flowerpot of flowers, and on the cupboard are laid a lute, a base 
viol, a pint pot or ewer covered in part with a cloth folded 
several times, and Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophice , with 
two other books, upon it. By this cupboard stands a daughter 
of Sir Thomas More's, putting on her right-hand glove, and 
having under her arm a book bound in red turkey leather and 
gilt, with this inscription round the outside of the cover : 
EpistoHca Senecce. Over her head is written Elizabetha Dancea 
Thonicc Mori filia^ anno 21. Behind her stands a woman hold- 
ing a book open with both hands, over whose head is written 
Uxor Johannis Clements.* Next to Mrs. Dancy is Sir John 
More in his robes as one of the justices of the King's Bench, 
and by him Sir Thomas in his chancellor's robes f and collar 

* On the Basle sketch it is Margarcta Giga dementis uxor T homer, 
Mori filiahiis condiscipiila et cognata, anno 22. 

t When this picture was painted More was not yet Lord High Chan- 
cellor, nor does he wear any robe of dignity, but the common furred gown. 


of S.S., with a rose pendant before. They are both sitting 
on a sort of tressel or armed bench ; one of the arms and 
legs and one of the tassels of the cushion appear on the left side 
of Sir Thomas. At the feet of Sir John lies a cur dog, and at 
Sir Thomas's a Bologna shock. Over Sir John's head is written 
Johannes AToriis pater ^ anno 76 ; over Sir Thomas's, Thomas 
Moms, a7ino 50. Between t|;iem, behind, stands the wife* of 
John More (Sir Thomas's son), over whose head is written 
Anna Crisacria Joajinis Mori sponsa, anno 15. Behind Sir 
Thomas, a little on his left, stands his only son, John More, 
pictured with a very foolish aspect,t and looking earnestly in a 
book which he holds open with both his hands. Over his head 
is wYiittn Joan fies Morus Thonia filius^ anno 19. A little to 
the left of Sir Thomas are sitting on low stools his two other 
daughters, Cascilia and Margaret. Next him is Caecilia, who 
has a book in her hand clasped. By her sits her sister Mar- 
garet, who has likewise a book in her lap, but wide open, in 
which is written : L. An. Se?iecce /Edipiis. Fata si liceat niihi 
fingere arbitrio nieo, teinpere)n zephyro levis. On Caecilia's 
pettycoat is written CcEcilia Herond^X Thomce, Mori filia, anno 
20, and on Margaret's Margareta Ropera Thomce Mori filia, 
anno 22. Just by Mrs. Roper sits Sir Thomas's lady in an 
elbow chair holding a book open in her hands. About her 
neck she has a gold chain with a cross hanging to it before. 
On her left hand is a monkey chained, and holding part of it 
with one paw and part of it with the other. Over her head is 
written Uxor Thomce Mori, anno 57. § Behind her is a large 
arched window in which is placed a flower-pot of flowers and a 

* Not wife {^uxoY) but fiancee {sponsa). 

t This is a mere foolish fancy of Lewis. Mr. Wornum says of the 
Basle sketch " he here makes the impression of a gentle, reflective, and 
sterling youth "" (p. 320). 

J Hcrona in the Basle sketch. 

§ In the Basle sketch it is Alicia Thomce Mori uxor, anno 57. 


couple of oranges. Behind the two ladies stands Sir Thomas's 
fool. He has his cap on and in it are stuck a red and white 
rose, and on the brim of it is a shield with a red cross in 
it, and a sort of seal pendant. About his neck he wears a 
black string with a cross hanging before him, and his left 
thumb is stuck in a broad leathern girdle clasped about him. 
Over his head is written He7iricus Pattison Thomie servusj^ At 
the entrance of the room where Sir Thomas and his family are 
stands a man in the portal who has in his left hand a roll of 
papers or parchments with two seals appendant, as if he was some 
way belonging to Sir Thomas [as Lord Chancellor]. f Over 
his head is written Joannes Heresius Thomce Mori faniuhis. X 
In another room, at some distance, is seen through the door- 
case, a man standing at a large bow window with short black 
hair, in an open-sleeved gown of a sea-green colour, holding a 
book open in his hands, written or printed in the black letter, 
and reading very earnestly in it. About the middle of the 
room over against Sir Thomas hangs a clock, with strings and 
leaden weights without any case." § 

However minute, this is a very inartistic and unsatisfactory 
description of this famous picture. Mr. Lewis says nothing 
about its size, nor whether it is painted on canvas or wood, nor 
with what pigments. Had he not mentioned the colour of a 
book cover, the red and white rose, and the sea-green colour of 
a servant's gown in the background, we should have been left 
uncertain whether it was a painting at all, or a mere cartoon, 
or a pen and ink drawing like that at Basle. 

In the Basle Museum is preserved the study made for this 
picture, a small pen and ink sketch, on which, besides the in- 

* In the Basle sketch Hcnricus Patensonns Thomw Mori morio, anno 40. 

t See note at last page. 

X He is not in the Basle sketch. 

§ Lewis Roper, App. xv. 


scriptions of names and ages in Latin,* are notes in German 
by Holbein for his own direction. The Basle sketch corres- 
ponds in general with Lewis's account, but Lady More is 
kneeling on a prie-dieu instead of sitting in an arm-chair. But 
Holbein has written Diese soil sitzen (this one shall sit), and 
above Sir John's head, where a violin and clock are hanging 
on the wall, is a note " Clavicord and other instruments on a 
shelf". In the Basle sketch also the clerk or secretary John 
Harris is not seen, nor the two dogs. 

The picture described by Lewis is now in the possession of 
Lord St. Oswald (formerly Rowland Winn, Esq.), at Nostel 
Priory, near Wakefield. The size of the canvas is 11 ft. 6 in. 
w. by 8 ft. 3 in. h. Whether this is the original by Holbein or 
an exceedingly able copy has been disputed. + 

It is certain that Sir Thomas sent this or a similar family 
group as a present to Erasmus by Holbein's own hands, and it 
is certain that Holbein had reached Basle by August, 1528. 
AVhether the group that he conveyed was the only picture finished 
by him, or whether it was a replica of one left in England, 
or whether it was merely the pen and ink sketch now in Basle, 
I do not find recorded. In the absence of evidence, I should 
conjecture that Holbein retained his own sketch or study now 
in the Basle Museum, and conveyed an oil painting to Erasmus. 
Karel van Mander, who wrote in 1608, mentions an original 
painting by Holbein of this family group being then in the 
possession of the art collector, Andries Van Loo. " From 

* Mr. Seebohm says "in Sir Thomas's handwriting," Mr. Wornum, 
" perhaps by Erasmus himself" ; which seems very improbable, for how 
should Erasmus know the ages of every member of the household, even 
the fool ? 

t A copy somewhat mutilated was in possession of Mr. Eyston of East 
Hendred in 1867, and another at Thorndon Hall, the seat of Lord Petre. 
They are described by Mr. Wornum in his Life and Works of Holbein, p. 
237. Both these are coarsely painted, and are certainly not by Holbein. 
The genuineness of the Nostel Priory picture is discussed at length by 
Mr. Wornum. lb., p. 239. 


him," writes Mr. Cundall, "it went back to a grandson of Sir 
Thomas More ; since then it has entirely disappeared." * 

It is important to notice that the engravings of the Basle 
sketch have an inscription "Joannes Holbein ad vivum delin. 
Londini, 1530". But this date is not on the original, and is 
incorrect. Holbein left England in 1528, and was in Basle in 
1530. The same erroneous date 1530 having been marked on 
other copies led to misdating the ages of Sir Thomas and all 
his family. The ages marked by Sir Thomas refer to the latter 
part of 1527 or early in 1528. 

A letter was, no doubt, sent by Sir Thomas to Erasmus, with 
the picture ; but it no longer exists, nor the answer of Erasmus. 
It would seem, however, that another letter was sent by the 
young ladies, for there is a letter addressed by Erasmus : — 

"To Margaret Roper, the ornament of Britain, — 

" I cannot find words to express the joy I felt when Holbein's 
picture showed me your whole family almost as faithfully as if 
I had you before my eyes. Often do I form the wish that even 
once before my last day I may look upon that most dear 
society, to which I owe a great part of whatever little fortune or 
glory I possess; and to none could I be indebted more willingly. 
The painter's skill has given me no small portion of my wish. 
I recognise you all, but no one better than yourself. I seem 
to behold through all your beautiful household a soul shining 
forth still more beautiful. I congratulate you all in that family 
happiness, but most of all your excellent father." After a few 
words on female culture and its advantages, he concludes : "I am 
writing in bad health and in the midst of overwhelming work, 
therefore I must leave it to your tact to convince all your sisters 
that this is a fair and adequate letter; and written to each one 
of them no less than to yourself. Convey my respectful and 

^- Hans Holbein, by Joseph Cundall (1882), p. 54. This of course 
supposes that the Well Hall picture, now Lord St. Oswald's, is either a 
copy, or a replica. 


affectionate salutations to the honoured Lady AHce, your mother. 
I kiss her picture as I cannot kiss herself.* To my godson, 
John More, I wish every happiness, and you will give a special 
salutation on my part to your honourable husband, so justly 
dear to you. May God keep you all, and give you every pros- 
perity by His almighty grace. From Fribourg, 6th September, 
1529." + 

Margaret Roper replied in a beautiful Latin letter. Quirinus 
had brought Erasmus's elegant and loving letter. She had 
never deserved or expected such an honour as to receive a letter 
from the hand of one who was the pride and ornament of the 
whole world {totius orbis decus). She does not know how to 
thank him worthily : " You say that the visit of the painter 
(Holbein) caused you great pleasure, because he brought the 
picture of both my parents and of us all. We are most thank- 
ful that you are pleased, and we desire nothing more ardently 
than to see once more our former tutor to whom we owe what- 
ever culture we possess, and still more to converse with the old 
and faithful friend of our father. My mother cordially salutes 
you, also my husband and my brother, and both my sisters. 
London, 4th November, 1529."^ 

Many portraits have been mistaken for Sir Thomas More's. 
A bearded picture of Sir Thomas Wyatt, by Holbein, in the 
Louvre, was called Sir Thomas More because of a gold chain. 
Even the burgomaster of Dresden and his family in Holbein's 

* Erasmus mentions jokingly elsewhere the custom then universal in 
England of thus saluting ladies. 

t Letter 1075. 

X Letter 352, in App. With the words of Margaret Roper — Utriusqtic 
inci parentis nostrumqiie omnitiin ejfigievi depictmn — I do not understand 
how Mr. Wornum can doubt whether Sir Thomas sent any picture to 
Erasmus, and imagine that Holbein either carried with him a mere sketch, 
or drew one from memory. Erasmus also makes mention of a. pictura, 
and of its being perfectly life-like. How could such expressions be used 
of a small pen and ink sketch ? 


Meyer Madonna have been taken for More and his family, though 
there is not an Enghsh hne in face or dress. 

Another family group formerly at Burford Priory, the seat 
of Mr. Lenthall, now in the possession of Mr. Walter 
Strickland of Cokethorpe Park, Oxfordshire, is a composition. 
It contains Sir John and Sir Thomas, with four other male 
and four female figures, besides another female who appears 
in a framed portrait. Some of these were descendants of Sir 
Thomas of a much later date, for the picture was painted in 
'593- The margin contains long inscriptions, not always 

It is instructive and somewhat amusing to compare the 
descriptions of professed or professional art critics. There 
are two crayons of Sir Thomas More's head, unquestionably 
by Holbein, in Her Majesty's Windsor collection. In perfect 
agreement with these is the finished portrait in the possession 
of Mr. Huth. Mr. Wornum says, "the expression in this 
picture is harsh and even repulsive " ; yet I have myself seen 
crowds around this picture so charmed as to be almost 
unable to draw themselves away, and all uttering exclamations 
on the beauty and sweetness of the expression. It would 
seem that Holbein's portrait shares the mysterious property 
of the face it copied ; it was a riddle to each one who read it, 
or guessed at it as he felt disposed. 



THE events of More's public life, from 15 17 to 1529, when 
he became chancellor, are touched on, but very 
slightly, in his son-in-law's notes. Yet they were very 
important years, the years in which he forsook the profession 
of the law for the career of a statesman. That More's name 
does not appear much more prominently during those years 
in English history, is greatly due to his w^ant of ambition. 
There is not a solitary example in his life of his seeking any 
advancement either in honours or in wealth. He discharged 
his various offices, not because he delighted in them — for 
several inspired him with repugnance — yet always cheerfully as 
acquitting himself of a duty to God and his country. 

When he first perceived the likelihood of his being drawn 
into public life, he expressed his thoughts on it in such a 
manner in his Utopia, that his words might serve as a protest 
or declaration of principles, even if they did not prove to 
Wolsey and the king that he was a man unfit for statecraft. 
The long extracts I am about to give from his Utopia require 
no apology. They are an exposition by More himself of his 
views of the work in which he spent the years of his manhood. 
It is worth while to observe that, at the very time when More 
was satirising the diplomacy of his age, Machiavelli in Italy, 
whether satirically or not, was elaborating it into a perfect 
system. * 

* Seebohm. 


Peter Giles and More, it will be remembered, were discours- 
ing with Raphael Hythloday, the traveller. Peter had expressed 
his surprise that Hythloday should not give the benefit of his 
great experience to some prince. " ' I do not see any other way 
in which you can be so useful, both in private to your friends 
and to the public, and by which you can make your own con- 
dition happier.' 'Happier?' answered Raphael, 'is that to 
be compassed in a way so abhorrent to my genius ? Now I 
live as I will, to which, I believe, few courtiers can pretend; 
and there are so many that court the favour of great men, that 
there will be no great loss if they are not troubled either with 
me or with others of my temper.' Upon this, said I, 'I per- 
ceive, Raphael, that you neither desire wealth nor greatness ; 
and, indeed, I value and admire such a man much more than 
I do any of the great men in the world. Yet I think you 
would do what would well become so generous and philosophical 
a soul as yours is, if you would apply your time and thoughts 
to public affairs, even though you may happen to find it a little 
uneasy to yourself; and this you can never do with so much ad- 
vantage as by being taken into the council of some great prince 
and putting him on noble and worthy actions, which I know 
you would do if you were in such a post ; for the springs both 
of good and evil flow from the prince over a whole nation, as 
from a lasting fountain. So much learning as you have, even 
without practice in affairs, or so great a practice as you have 
had, without any other learning, would render you a very fit 
counsellor to any king whatsoever.' ' You are doubly mis- 
taken,' said he, ' Mr. More, both in your opinion of me and in 
the judgment you make of things : for as I have not that 
capacity that you fancy I have, so if I had it, the public would 
not be one jot the better when I had sacrificed my quiet to it. 
For most princes apply themselves more to affairs of war than 
to the useful arts of peace ; and in these I neither have any 
knowledge, nor do I much desire it ; they are generally more set on 
acquiring new kingdoms right or wrong, than on governing 


well those they possess : and, among the ministers of princes, 
there are none that are not so wise as to need no assistance, or, 
at least, that do not think themselves so wise that they 
imagine they need none ; and if they court any, it is only those 
for whom the prince has much personal favour, whom by 
their fawnings and flatteries they endeavour to fix to their own 
interests ; and, indeed, nature has so made us, that we all love 
to be flattered and to please ourselves with our own notions : 
the old crow loves his young, and the ape her cubs. Now, if 
in such a court, made up of persons who envy all others and 
only admire themselves, a person should but propose any- 
thing that he had either read in history or observed in 
his travels, the rest would think that the reputation of 
their wisdom would sink, and that their interests would be 
much depressed if they could not run it down : and if all other 
things failed, then they would fly to this, that such or such 
things pleased our ancestors, and it were well for us if we could 
but match them. They would set up their rest on such an 
answer as a sufficient confutation of all that could be said, as 
if it were a great misfortune that any should be found wiser 
than his ancestors. But though they willingly let go all the 
good things that were among those of former ages, yet, if better 
things are proposed, they cover themselves obstinately with 
this excuse of reverence to past times. I have met with these 
proud, morose, and absurd judgments of things in many places, 
particularly once in England.' " 

Then, after a long story of a conversation at Cardinal 
Morton's table, they return once more to the subject. " ' You 
have done me a great kindness,' said I, ' in this relation ; you 
have made me imagine that I was in my own country and 
grown young again, by recalling that good cardinal to my 
thoughts, in whose family I was bred from my childhood ; but 
after all this I cannot change my opinion, for I still think that if 
you could overcome that aversion which you have to the courts 
of princes, you might, by the advice which it is in your power 


to give, do a great deal of good to mankind, and this is the 
chief design that every good man ought to propose to himself 
in living ; for your friend Plato thinks that nations will be 
happy when either philosophers become kings or kings 
become philosophers. It is no wonder if we are so far from 
that happiness while philosophers will not think it their duty 
to assist kings with their counsels.' ' They are not so base- 
minded,' said he, ' but that they would willingly do it : many 
of them have already done it by their books, if those that are in 
power would but hearken to their good advice. But Plato 
judged right, that except kings themselves became philosophers, 
they who from their childhood are corrupted with false notions 
would never fall in entirely with the counsels of philosophers, 
and this he himself found to be true in the person of Dionysius. 
" ' Do not you think that if I were about any king, propos- 
ing good laws to him, and endeavouring to root out all the cursed 
seeds ofevilthati found in him, I should either be turned out of 
his court, or, at least, be laughed at for my pains ? For instance, 
what could I signify if I were about the King of France, and 
were called into his cabinet council, where several wise men, in 
his hearing, were proposing many expedients : as, by what arts 
and practices Milan may be kept, and Naples, that has so 
often slipped out of their hands, recovered ; how the Venetians, 
and after them the rest of Italy, may be subdued ; and then 
how Flanders, Brabant, and all Burgundy, and some other 
kingdoms which he has swallowed already in his designs, may 
be added to his empire ? One proposes a league with the 
Venetians, to be kept as long as he finds his account in it, 
and that he ought to communicate counsels with them, and 
give them some share of the spoil till his success makes him 
need or fear them less, and then it will be easily taken out of 
their hands; another proposes the hiring the Germans and the 
securing the Switzers by pensions ; another proposes pro- 
pitiating the deity of the emperor by a sacrifice of gold ; another 
proposes a peace with the King of Arragon, and, in order to 


cement it, the yielding up the King of Navarre's pretensions ; 
another thinks that the Prince of Castile is to be wrought on 
by the hope of an alliance, and that some of his courtiers are 
to be gained to the French faction by pensions. The hardest 
point of all is, what to do with England ; a treaty of peace is 
to be set on foot, and, if their alliance is not to be depended 
on, yet it is to be made as firm as possible, and they are to be 
called friends, but suspected as enemies : therefore the Scots 
are to be kept in readiness to be let loose upon England on 
every occasion ; and some banished nobleman is to be sup- 
ported underhand (for by the league it cannot be done 
avowedly) who has a pretension to the crown, by which means 
that suspected prince may be kept in awe. 

" ' Now, when things are in so great a fermentation, and so 
many gallant men are joining counsels how to carry on the 
war, if so mean a man as I should stand up and wish them to 
change all their counsels — to let Italy alone and stay at home, 
since the kingdom of France was indeed greater than could be 
well governed by one man ; that therefore he ought not to 
think of adding others to it ; and if, after this, I should pro- 
pose to them the resolutions of the Achorians, a people that 
lie on the south-east of Utopia, who long ago engaged in war 
in order to add to the dominions of their prince another 
kingdom, to which he had some pretensions by an ancient 
alliance ; this they conquered, but found that the trouble of 
keeping it was equal to that by which it was gained ; that the 
conquered people were always either in rebellion or exposed 
to foreign invasions, while they were obliged to be incessantly 
at war, either for or against them, and consequently could 
never disband their army ; that in the meantime they were 
oppressed with taxes, their money went out of the kingdom, 
their blood was spilt for the glory of others without peace 
being secured ; and that, their manners being corrupted by a 
long war, robbery and murders everywhere abounded, and 
their laws fell into contempt ; while their king, distracted with 


the care of two kingdoms, was the less able to apply his mind 
to the interest of either. When they saw this, and that there 
would be no end to these evils, they by joint counsels made 
an humble address to their king, desiring him to choose which 
of the two kingdomiS he had the greatest mind to keep, since 
he could not hold both ; for they were too great a people to 
be governed by a divided king, since no man would willingly 
have a sroom that should be in common between him and 
another. Upon which the good prince was forced to quit 
his new kingdom to one of his friends (who was not long after 
dethroned), and to be contented with his old one. To this I 
would add that, after all those warlike attempts, the vast 
confusions, and the consumption both of treasure and of 
people that must follow them, perhaps upon some misfortune 
they might be forced to throw up all at last; therefore, it 
seemed much more eligible that the king should improve his 
ancient kingdom all he could, and make it flourish as much 
as possible ; that he should love his people, and be beloved of 
them ; that he should live among them, govern them gently, 
and let other kingdoms alone, since that which had fallen to 
his share was big enough, if not too big, for him :— pray, how 
do you think would such a speech as this be heard ? ' 

" ' I confess,' said I, ' I think not very well.' 

" ' But what,' said he, ' if I should sort with another kind 
of ministers, whose chief contrivances and consultations were 
by what art the prince's treasures might be increased ? where 
one proposes raising the value of specie when the king's debts 
are large, and lowering it when his revenues were to come in, 
that so he might both pay much with a little, and in a little 
receive a great deal. Another proposes a pretence of war, 
that money might be raised in order to carry it on, and that a 
peace be concluded as soon as that was done ; and this with 
such appearances of religion as might work on the people, 
and make them impute it to the piety of their prince, and to 
his tenderness for the lives of his subjects. A third offers 


some old musty laws that have been antiquated by a long 
disuse (and which, as they had been forgotten by all the 
subjects, so they had also been broken by them), and proposes 
the levying the penalties of these laws, that, as it would bring 
in a vast treasure, so there might be a very good pretence for 
it, since it would look like the executing a law and the doing 
of justice. A fourth proposes the prohibiting of many things 
under severe penalties, especially such as were against the 
interest of the people, and then the dispensing with these pro- 
hibitions, upon great compositions, to those who might find their 
advantage in breaking them. This would serve two ends, both 
of them acceptable to many ; for as those whose avarice led 
them to transgress would be severely fined, so the selling 
licenses dear would look as if a prince were tender of his 
people, and would not easily, or at low rates, dispense with 
anything that might be against the public good. Another 
proposes that the judges must be made sure, that they may 
declare always in favour of the prerogative ; that they must be 
often sent for to court, that the king may hear them argue those 
points in which he is concerned ; since, how unjust soever any 
of his pretensions may be, yet still some one or other of them, 
either out of contradiction to others, or the pride of singularity, 
or to make their court, would find out some pretence or other 
to give the king a fair colour to carry the point. For if the 
judges but differ in opinion, the clearest thing in the world is 
made by that means disputable, and truth being once brought 
in question, the king may then take advantage to expound the 
law for his own profit ; while the judges that stand out will be 
brought over, either through fear or modesty ; and they being 
thus gained, all of them may be sent to the bench to give 
sentence boldly as the king would have it ; for fair pretences 
will never be wanting when sentence is to be given in the 
prince's favour. It will either be said that equity lies of his 
side, or some words in the law will be found sounding that 
way, or some forced sense will be put on them ; and, when all 


Other things fail, the king's undoubted prerogative will be pre- 
tended, as that which is above all law, and to which a religious 
judge ought to have a special regard. Thus all consent to that 
maxim of Crassus, that a prince cannot have treasure enough, 
since he must maintain his armies out of it ; that a king, even 
though he would, can do nothing unjustly ; that all property is 
in him, not excepting the very persons of his subjects ; and 
that no man has any other property but that which the king, 
out of his goodness, thinks fit to leave him. And they think 
it is the prince's interest that there be as little of this left as 
may be, as if it were his advantage that his people should have 
neither riches nor liberty, since these things make them less 
easy and willing to submit to a cruel and unjust government. 
Whereas necessity and poverty blunts them, makes them 
patient, beats them down, and breaks that height of spirit that 
might otherwise dispose them to rebel. 

'"Now, what if, after all these propositions were made, I should 
rise up and assert that such counsels were both unbecoming a 
king and mischievous to him ; and that not only his honour, 
but his safety, consisted more in his people's wealth than in his 
own ; if I should show that they choose a king for their own 
sake, and not for his ; that, by his care and endeavours, they 
may be both easy and safe ; and that, therefore, a prince ought 
to take more care of his people's happiness than of his own, as 
a shepherd is to take more care of his flock than of himself? 
It is also certain that they are much mistaken that think the 
poverty of a nation is a means of the public safety. Who 
quarrel more than beggars ? who does more earnestly long for 
a change than he that is uneasy in his present circumstances ? 
and who run to create confusions with so desperate a boldness 
as those who, having nothing to lose, hope to gain by them ? 
If a king should fall under such contempt or envy that he could 
not keep his subjects in their duty but by oppression and ill 
usage, and by rendering them poor and miserable, it were 
certainly better for him to quit his kingdom than to retain it by 


such methods as make him, while he keeps the name of 
authority, lose the majesty due to it. Nor is it so becoming 
the dignity of a king to reign over beggars as over rich and 
happy subjects. And therefore Fabricius, a man of a noble 
and exalted temper, said " he would rather govern rich men 
than be rich himself; since for one man to abound in wealth 
and pleasure when all about him are mourning and groaning, 
is to be a gaoler and not a king ". He is an unskilful physician 
that cannot cure one disease without casting his patient into 
another. So he that can find no other way for correcting the 
errors of his people but by taking from them the conveniences 
of life, shows that he knows not what it is to govern a free 
nation. He himself ought rather to shake off his sloth, or to 
lay down his pride, for the contempt or hatred that his people 
have for him takes its rise from the vices in himself. Let 
him live upon what belongs to him without wronging others, 
and accommodate his expense to his revenue. Let him punish 
crimes, and, by his wise conduct, let him endeavour to prevent 
them, rather than be severe when he has suffered them to be 
too common. Let him not rashly revive laws that are abro- 
gated by disuse, especially if they have been long forgotten and 
never wanted. And let him never take any penalty for the 
breach of them to which a judge would not give way in a 
private man, but would look on him as a crafty and unjust 
person for pretending to it. 

" ' If I should talk of these or such-like things to men that 
had taken their bias another way, how deaf would they be to 
all 1 could say ! ' 

" ' No doubt, very deaf,' answered I ; ' and no wonder, for 
one is never to offer propositions or advice that we are certain 
will not be entertained. Discourses so much out of the road 
could not avail anything nor have any effect on men whose 
minds were prepossessed with different sentiments. This 
philosophical way of speculating is not unpleasant among 
friends in a free conversation ; but there is no room for 



it in the courts of princes, where great affairs are carried on by 

" ' That is what I was saying,' rephed he, ' that there is no 
room for philosophy in the courts of princes.' ' Yes, there 
is,' said I, ' but not for this speculative philosophy, that makes 
everything to be alike fitting at all times ; but there is another, 
philosophy that is more pliable, that knows its proper scene, 
accommodates itself to it, and teaches a man with propriety 
and decency to act that part which has fallen to his share. 
If when one of Plautus' comedies is upon the stage, and a 
company of servants are acting their parts, you should come 
out in the garb of a philosopher, and repeat, out of Odavia, a 
discourse of Seneca's to Nero, would it not be better for you 
to say nothing than by mixing things of different natures to 
make an impertinent tragic-comedy ? for you spoil and corrupt 
the play that is in hand when you mix with it things of an 
opposite nature, even though they are much better. Therefore, 
go through with the play that is acting the best you can, and 
do not confound it because another that is pleasanter comes 
into your thoughts. It is even so in a commonwealth and in 
the councils of princes ; if ill opinions cannot be quite rooted 
out, and you cannot cure some received vice according to your 
wishes, you must not, therefore, abandon the commonwealth, 
for the same reasons as you should not forsake the ship in a 
storm because you cannot command the winds. You are not 
obliged to assault people with discourses that are out of their 
road, when you see that their received notions must prevent 
your making an impression upon them : you ought rather to 
cast about and to manage things with all the dexterity in your 
power, so that, if you are not able to make them go well, they 
may be as little ill as possible ; for, except all men were good, 
everything cannot be right, and that is a blessing that I do not 
at present hope to see.' 

" ' According to your argument,' answered he, ' all that I 
could be able to do would be to preserve myself from being 


mad while I endeavour to cure the madness of others ; for, if I 
speak truth, I must repeat what I have said to you ; and as for 
lying, whether a philosopher can do it or not I cannot tell : I 
am sure I cannot do it. But though these discourses may be 
uneasy and ungrateful to them, I do not see why they should 
seem foolish or extravagant ; indeed, if I should either propose 
such things as Plato has contrived in his " Commonwealth," or 
as the Utopians practise in theirs, though they might seem 
better, as certainly they are, yet they are so different from our 
establishment, which is founded on property (there being no 
such thing among them), that I could not expect that it would 
have any effect on them. But such discourses as mine, which 
only call past evils to mind and give warning of what may 
follow, have nothing in them that is so absurd that they may 
not be used at any time, for they can only be unpleasant to 
those who are resolved to run headlong the contrary way ; and 
if we must let alone everything as absurd or extravagant, which, 
by reason of the wicked lives of many, may seem uncouth, we 
must, even among Christians, give over pressing the greatest 
part of those things that Christ hath taught us, though He has 
commanded us not to conceal them, but to proclaim on the 
housetops that which He taught in secret. The greatest parts 
of His precepts are more opposite to the lives of the men of 
this age than any part of my discourse has been, but the 
preachers seem to have learned that craft to which you advise 
me : for they, observing that the world would not wilHngly suit 
their lives to the rules that Christ has given, have fitted His 
doctrine, as if it had been a leaden rule, to their lives, that so, 
some way or other, they might agree with one another. But I 
see no other effect of this compliance except it be that men 
become more secure in their wickedness by it ; and this is all 
the success that I can have in a court, for either I must always 
differ from the rest, and then I shall signify nothing : or, if I 
agree with them, I shall then only help forward their madness. 
I do not comprehend what you mean by your "casting about," 


or by "the bending and handling things so dexterously that, if 
they go not well, they may go as little ill as may be " ; for in 
courts they will not bear with a man's holding his peace or 
conniving at what others do : a man must barefacedly approve 
of the worst counsels and consent to the blackest designs, 
so that he would pass for a spy, or, possibly, for a traitor, 
that did but coldly approve of such wicked practices ; and, 
therefore, when a man is engaged in such a society, he will 
be so far from being able to mend matters by his " casting 
about," as you call it, that he will find no occasions of doing 
any good — the ill company will sooner corrupt him than be the 
better for him ; or if, notwithstanding all their ill company, he 
still remains steady and innocent, yet their follies and knavery 
will be imputed to him ; and, by mixing counsels with them, he 
must bear his share of all the blame that belongs wholly to 
others.' " * 

No one can say that More had not spoken out. The 
simplest peasant in England would have known that, what- 
ever truth there was in his invective against the insatiable 
ambition and crooked policy of the French kings, Louis XII. 
and Francis I., the discourse was aimed at the foolish vanity 
of the king of England, who was dreaming of the recovery of 
the possessions of his ancestors on the continent, and for that 
end had twice invaded France. + It is somewhat to the honour 
of Henry that, after reading this declaration of free and noble 
principles, he should have been so eager to secure the writer 
as his councillor. Years afterwards More respectfully declared 
to the king, that "he always bare in mind the most godly 
words that his Highness spoke unto him upon his first entry 
into his noble service — the most virtuous lesson that ever 
prince taught his servant — willing him first to look unto God, 
and aftei God, unto him ; so in good faith, he said, he did, or 

* Burnet's translation, slightly corrected by the Latin, 
t In 1512 and 1513. 


else might His Grace well account him for his most unworthy 
servant ". * 

From this review of his principles let us now turn to his 
acts. Roper's memory was not quite accurate as to the 
sequence of events. He says that More "continued in the 
king's singular favour and trusty service twenty years and 
above". If we reckon from the spring of 1532, when he 
resigned the chancellorship, this would take us back to 15 12, 
which is quite too early. On the other hand, Roper says 
that "before he came to the service of the king he had been 
twice ambassador " in the interests of the London merchants. 
Now, the second embassy brings us to the end of 15 17, and 
this date is confirmed from other sources. But, again, his 
son-in-law is certainly mistaken when he says that the king 
summoned him "to court, " made him Master of the Requests 
(having then no better room void), and within a month after 
knight, and one of his privy council ". 

When we control these assertions by authentic records, it 
appears that early in 15 18 More became finally a courtier, 
or rather took office at court ; + he was probably not made a 
privy councillor until the summer of that year, and not 
knighted until the summer of 152 1. 

A word or two about the Privy Council in the time of 
Henry VHI. will help the reader to realise More's position. 
The King's Great Court or Council had originally combined 
the legislative, judicial and administrative functions. A large 
portion of its judicial functions was separated from it, and 
constituted the three tribunals of the King's Bench, Common 
Pleas, and Exchequer. The king, however, still retained 
near him his chief ministers who formed his Privy Council — 
the Chancellor, Treasurer, Lord Steward, Lord Admiral, Lord 

* Roper. 

t He did not, however, resign his office of under-sheriff until 23rd 
uly, 1519, according to Mr. Foss and Sir James Mackintosh. 


Marshall, the Keeper of the Privy Seal, the Chamberlain, 
Treasurer and Comptroller of the Household, the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 
the Master of the Wardrobe, the Judges, Attorney-General and 
Master of the Rolls. When the business was special those 
only to whose department it belonged were summoned : the 
chancellor and judges for matters of law ; the officers of state 
for what concerned the revenue or household. Whether un- 
constitutionally or not, the business of the Council under the 
Tudors w^as both deliberative and judicial ; they issued 
ordinances, and claimed and exercised the right to imprison 
without formal conviction of crime. 

The first charge given to More was that of Master of 
Requests. As the king made his progresses from place to 
place, many petitions w^ere presented to him. These were 
referred to certain members of his household, of whom at least 
two were to be always in attendance. More still retained this 
office after being promoted to high dignity, and it gave him 
many opportunities of exercising justice and charity. * 

The records of the Privy Council are lost for the w^hole 
period of More's lifetime, so that we are left to glean our in- 
formation from occasional mention in letters or documents of 
the time. His reputation for uprightness made his access to 
the king welcome news to all good men. Sebastian Justiniani, 
the Venetian ambassador, wTOte on i8th February, 15 18, that 
the cardinal had appointed Richard Pace and Thomas More 
as commissioners to negotiate the repeal of the wine duties. 
*' They are," he says, " the most sage, most virtuous, and most 
linked with myself of any in England. I suspect, however, 
that this promise will not be performed, because Pace is known 
to be devoted to the Signory cuid More to jusfice.'''\ On 3rd 

* In 1526, when the household was remodelled, he remained one of 
the examiners of petitions {Letters and Papers, iv. 1939). 
+ Venetian State Papers, ii. loio. 


September, 15 17, More had written to Erasmus: "I gave your 
letters to the Venetian ambassador. We scratched each other 
with set speeches and lengthened compliments ; but, to tell the 
truth, he pleases me much. He seems a most honourable 
man, with great experience of the world, and now bent on the 
knowledge of things divine ; last, not least, very fond of you." 

Erasmus rejoiced that literature had gained a new patron. 
" Many learned men," he writes, 26th July, 15 18, " are now in 
the English Court : Linacre, the king's physician ; Tunstall, 
master of the rolls ; More, privy councillor ; Pace, secretary ; 
Mountjoy, chamberlain ; Colet, preacher ; Stokesley, con- 
fessor."* All, however, were not learned men in the Council, 
and More must have been often amused at the uncouth spelling 
of the king's brother-in-law, the Duke of Suffolk. A specimen 
from a letter just of this date will amuse the reader. He writes 
that it hath pleased God "to wyesset his wife (the ex-Queen of 
France) wyet a nague, the wyche has taken Her Grace hewarre 
third day 4 tyemes wyree sharpe"t (in modern spelling, "to visit 
her with an ague, the which has taken Her Grace every third 
day four times very sharp "). The dice and cards, hunting, 
masquerades, and feasting, of which More now saw so much, 
and for all of which, according to Erasmus, he had a great 
aversion, must have given him less amusement than ignorance 
in high places. The king was fond of theological discussions 
as well as of dice, and More had to take part in these ; but 
though His Majesty was willing to lose money at cards, he 
would not care to be refuted in argument. He was just then 
maintaining a thesis as to whether laymen are bound to vocal 
prayer, and had put his arguments on paper. Wolsey had 
taken the opposite side to the king, but when he saw the royal 
logic in writing, he declared himself convinced, which much 

* This is the earliest mention I have found of More as privy 
councillor. The date of his appointment is unknown. Sir James 
Mackintosh says the beginning of 15 16. This seems too early. 

t Letters and Papers, ii. 4134. 


pleased the conqueror, and probably encouraged him a few 
years later to measure theological swords with Luther.* 

Henry VIII. at this period of his life was a most amiable 
prince. In a letter to the Bishop of Rochester he is thus de- 
scribed by More : " He is so affable and courteous to all men, that 
each one thinks himself his favourite, even as the citizens' wives 
imagine that Our Lady's picture at the tower smiles upon them 
as they pray before it".t It is not strange that such a prince, 
the evil parts of whose character were as yet but little developed, 
should have been attracted strongly by a man like More— a 
scholar, an orator, an accomplished gentleman — whom he 
would prize, moreover, as his conquest. 

Writing in 15 19, Erasmus draws a beautiful picture of More 
as a courtier: "In serious matters no man's advice is more 
prized, while if the king wishes to recreate himself, no man's 
conversation is gayer. Often there are deep and intricate 
matters that demand a grave and prudent judge. More un- 
ravels them in such a way that he satisfies both sides. No one, 
however, has ever prevailed on him to receive a gift for his 
decision. Happy the commonwealth where kings appoint such 
officials ! His elevation has brought with it no pride. iVmidst 
all the weight of state affairs he remembers the humble friends 
of old, and from time to time returns to his beloved literature. 
Whatever influence he has acquired by his dignity, whatever 
favour he enjoys with his opulent king, he uses for the good 
of the state and for the assistance of his friends. He was ever 
desirous of conferring benefits, and wonderfully prone to com- 

* Letter of Pace to Wolsey, 22nd June, 1518. It is strange that 
Mr. Brewer should imagine that this letter can refer to a first sketch of the 
king's book against Luther. Erasmus tells us the subject of this first 
book of Henry [Epist. 418). Luther's book on the Babylonian 
captivity, to which Henry replied, did not appear till two years after 
this letter of Pace's. 

t A " picture" in the language of those days often meant a painted 
statue or image. 


passion. This disposition has grown with his power of indul- 
ging it. Some he assists with money, others he protects by his 
authority, others he advances by his recommendation. If he 
can help in no other way, he does it by his counsels ; he sends 
no one away dejected. Vou would say that he had been ap- 
pointed the public guardian of all those in need." * 

Several casual illustrations occur here and there in state 
papers of the truth of this beautiful picture drawn by a devoted 
friend. One of the first duties of a councillor is secrecy. On 
the 1 8th September, 15 18, the Venetian ambassador writes to 
the Doge that, in a visit he had made to the king at Eltham 
he had " contrived a conference with Thomas More, newly 
made councillor, who was a great friend of his, but he could 
learn nothing from him, as the Cardinal of York, according to 
him, alone transacted the business with the French ambas- 
sador," etc. t So also three years later a great ecclesiastic, 
who had thought by acts of courtesy to draw some secret 
intelligence from More, writes that he failed to get " the 
slightest hint ". :|: 

Of his disposition to act as peace-maker, we have an 
instance in a letter of Sir Arthur Poole. That gentleman 
says that when he complained to the king how unjustly he 
had been handled by the Earl of Arundel, he was greatly 
miscontent, and told him to speak to Mr. More, the secretary, 

* Letter to Hutten. After describing More's piety and other virtues, 
Erasmus exclaims: "Ac talis Morus est etiam in aula, et postea sunt qui 
putent Christianos non inveniri nisi in monasteriis," which was a sop to 
Hutten, who hated monks. Then of Henry : " Hos habet arbitros ac 
testes perpetuos vitai sua; ". As the Duke of Richmond, Henry's natural 
son, was already born, and acknowledged by his father, it was rather 
bold to prove the king immaculate because of the presence of men like 
More in his court. As yet, howe\er, the court was comparatively 

t Venetian State Papers, ii. 1072. 
41 See infra, p. 190. 


to devise a sharp letter to him ; but More thought it better 
to send him a loving letter first. * 

To form some conception of the variety of duties that now 
fell to More's lot, it will be best to follow him in the first years 
of his court life. He travelled with the king, who was fond 
of moving from place to place, especially when flying from the 
terrible sweating sickness. In the spring of 15 18 the court 
was at Abingdon, near Oxford. More soon found that to live 
under a monarch's roof did not exempt him from the petty 
troubles of life. His friend and co-secretary. Pace, writes to 
Wolsey on April ist : " Dr. Clark and Mr. More desire Your 
Grace to write to my Lord Steward that they may have their 
daily allowance of meat which has been granted them by the 
king. Here is such bribery that they be compelled to buy 
meat in the town for their servants, which is to them intoler- 
able, and to the king's grace dishonourable." t 

The under-sheriff now found himself suddenly transformed 
into a sanitary official. The court had moved to Woodstock 
on 17th April, but More remained at Oxford to take measures 
against the plague. He shut up infected houses, and had 
them marked by wisps of hay ; those serving the sick, if 
obliged to go out, had to carry white rods.;|: 

Proximity to Oxford involved him in another plague, though 
somewhat more congenial, for a controversy was raging there 
about the study of his favourite Greek, and he had to 
intervene. Erasmus has related some incidents in his amusing 
style. His letter is no doubt an echo of one from More or 
from Pace, which has not been preserved. " England," 

* Letters and Papers, iii. 2636 (24th Oct., 1522). 

t lb., ii. 4055. There is frequent mention of More's liveries, as 
they are called, i.e., breakfasts, dinners, etc., in the Royal Accounts. 
At the beginning of 1526 an attempt was made to remedy abuses, and 
minute regulations were drawn up {lb., iv. 1939). Sed qnis eiistodiet 
ipsos ciistodes ? 

Xlb., 4125. 


writes Erasmus, " has two universities, Cambridge and 
Oxford, both of good renown. Greek literature is taught 
in both, but in Cambridge quietly, because its chancellor 
is John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, a man as theological 
in life as in erudition. At Oxford, where there is a young 
professor of Greek of no ordinary learning, * a barbarous 
preacher furiously attacked the study of Greek in a public 
sermon. But the king, who was in the neighbourhood, 
and who is both well instructed, and a patron of letters, 
having heard of the affair from Pace and More, gave orders 
that the study should be encouraged. Again, a theologian 
who had to preach in the presence of the king, began 
stupidly and impudently to attack Greek studies, and the 
new interpreters (of scripture). Pace looked at the king 
to see how he took it. The king replied by a smile. When 
the sermon was ended the theologian was called. More 
was appointed to defend Greek, and the king was himself 
present at the discussion. After More, with much eloquence, 
had made a long defence, and the reply of the theologian 
was expected, instead of speaking he suddenly went on his 
knees before the king and asked pardon, affirming, however, 
in his excuse, that while preaching he had felt himself inspired 
to say what he did against Greek. ' The spirit which inspired 
you,' replied the king, ' was certainly not that of Christ, but 
rather the spirit of folly.' Then he asked him whether he had 
read any of the writings of Erasmus, since the king perceived 
that he had been girding at me. He said that he had not. 
*Then you clearly prove your folly,' said the king, 'since 
you condemn what you have not read.' ' U^ell, I have read 
one thing, called Moria^' replied the theologian. ' May it 
please Your Highness,' interposed Pace, 'his argument well 
befits that book.' Meanwhile the theologian hits on a train 
of reasoning to mitigate his blunder. ' I am not altogether 

* This was John Clements, More's protege. 


opposed to Greek,' he says, 'since it is derived from the 
Hebrew.' The king, astonished at the man's folly, dismissed 
him, but forbade him ever again to preach at court." * 

In this letter Erasmus mentions two sermons and two 
preachers. To the sermon delivered at Oxford he merely 
alludes, perhaps he did not know the details of the affair. 
The sermon was the occasion of a very important Latin letter 
addressed by More to the university. A fragment of it is given 
by Stapleton, who calls it hiaile?ita oraiio^ a brilliant address. 
He tells us also that it w^as translated by one of More's 
daughters into English, and the English version again turned 
into Latin by another daughter.t That English translation 
has not been preserved, but I will give the reader the substance 
of the original, which has been printed in Latin more than 
once. :|: 

The letter, as will be seen, contains some very severe 
rebuke, addressed not to the university (except indirectly) but 
to the preacher, and w^ould doubtless have raised some clamour 
at a layman taking on himself the office of a bishop, had it not 
been known that More was really writing in the name of the 
king, not in his own. 

"He begins by apologising for his insufficiency and boldness 
in addressing so illustrious an academy. Whatever learning he 
has he owes to Oxford, and he would rather incur the reproach 
of arrogance, than of ingratitude in keeping silence w^hen tlie 
interests of the university are at stake. When in London he 

* Epist. Erasiii. 380. The letter is, as usual, wrongly dated by the 
editor, viz., 1519 instead of 1518. 

t Vita Mori, cap. 4 et cap. 10. 

:J: At Oxford by John Lichfield in 1633, and in the appendix to Jortin's 
Erasmus in 1760. The title, in which More is called Eqiics aitratiis, does 
not belong to the original, and the date is wrongly given as 1519. It 
should be 15 18. Most unaccountably Sir James Mackintosh supposes 
More's letter to have been written by him in 1497, in which year he 
places him as a student in Oxford. 


had heard of a faction at Oxford calling themselves Trojans, 
either out of hatred of Greek studies or from love of fun. 
The leader was said to be called Priam, another was Hector, a 
third Paris, and so on. These Trojans were accustomed to 
jeer at and otherwise molest all the students of Greek. He 
had thought these were merely the regrettable follies of young 
men ; but since he had accompanied the king to Abingdon, he 
has found that the folly is growing into madness, and that one 
of these Trojans, a man, wise in his own esteem and merry in 
the judgment of others, but who must be counted insane by 
all who consider his conduct, has in a public sermon, in the 
sacred time of Lent, raved not only against Greek literature 
and Latin culture, but most liberally against all liberal arts. 
And, that all might be of a piece, he did not comment on a 
complete passage of Holy Scripture, after the manner of the 
ancients, nor take a Scripture text after the modern custom, but 
took for his texts some old women's proverbs in English. He 
is sure the hearers must have been deeply offended, since who 
could have a spark of Christian feeling in his breast, and not 
lament to see the majesty of the preacher's office, which had 
gained the world to Christ, degraded by one whose duty it 
was to adorn and guard it ? What greater infamy could be 
offered to the function of the preacher, than that the preacher 
himself, in the holiest time of the year, before a great assembly 
of Christian men, in the very temple of God, from a lofiy 
pulpit as from the throne of Christ, in the presence of the 
venerable Body of Christ, should turn a Lenten sermon into a 
Bacchanalian farce ? As to his attack on all secular studies, if 
the good man had long withdrawn from the world and spent 
years in the desert, and suddenly coming from his solitude had 
urged his hearers to give themselves to watching, prayer and 
fasting, saying that by such means only could they gain 
heaven, and that all the rest was but trifling; that the 
study of literature was the forging of fetters, and that 
the rude and unlearned fly to heaven unhindered ; from 


such a preacher such a sermon might have been endured. His 
simpHcity might have gained him pardon, some kind hearers 
might have called it sanctity, and even those who liked it least 
might have excused it as piety and devotion. But here they 
see a man ascend the pulpit elegantly dressed with a furred 
mantle, and the insignia of a man of learning, and there, in the 
midst of a university to which no one comes except for the sake 
of learning, openly rail against almost every kind of literature. 
Who can deem this anything but mere malice and envy? How 
came it into his head to preach about the Latin tongue, of 
which he knows but little ; or the liberal sciences, of which he 
knows still less; or about Greek, of which he does not under- 
stand an iota? Had he not matter enough in the seven capital 
sins — matter, too, in which he is better skilled? Since he is 
so disposed that he prefers to blame what he is ignorant of 
rather than to learn, is not this sloth ? Since he calumniates 
those w^ho happen to know what he is prevented from knowing 
either by his indolence or his incapacity, is not this envy ? 
Since he would have no science esteemed except w^hat he 
falsely fancies himself to possess, and vaunts his ignorance 
rather than his science, is not this the height of pride ? We 
all know, forsooth, that without secular literature a man can 
save his soul ; yet even secular learning, as he calls it, prepares 
the mind for virtue. In any case it is for learning, and for 
learning alone, men come to Oxford ; for every good woman 
could teach her child at home rude and unlettered virtue. Nor 
do all come to the university to learn theology ; some study 
law, and others seek the knowledge of human affairs, a matter 
so useful even to a theologian, that without it he may perhaps 
sing pleasantly to himself, but will certainly not sing agreeably 
to the people. And this knowledge can nowhere be drawn so 
abundantly as from the poets, orators, and historians. There 
are even some who make the knowledge of things natural a 
road to heavenly contemplation, and so pass from philosophy 
and the liberal arts — which this man condemns under the 


general name of secular literature— to theology, despoiling the 
women of Egypt to adorn the queen. And as regards theology 
itself, which alone he seems to approve, if indeed he approves 
even that, I do not see how he can attain it without 
the knowledge of language, either Hebrew, Greek, or Latin, 
unless, indeed, in his fondness for English tales he has per- 
suaded himself that he will find it in such collections. Or 
perhaps he thinks that the whole of theology is comprised in 
the limits of those questions on which such as he are always 
disputing, for the knowledge of which it must be admitted that 
little enough Latin is wanted. 

" Will it be pretended that what he condemns is not literature, 
but the immoderate study of it ? Surely that sin is not so com- 
mon, or the rush of men so headlong towards study, that they 
need to be held back by a public sermon. We do not hear of 
many who have advanced so far, but that, even when they go 
still further, they will be yet not half-way to the goal. But the 
good man had no such moderate designs, for he openly called 
the students of Greek heretics, the professors he nicknamed big 
devils, and the disciples the devil's imps. And with this insane 
fury he pointed at a man by the name of a devil whom all knew 
to be such that the real devil would be most loth to see him 
made a preacher. He did not name him, but all who listened 
were as sure whom he meant as they were of the madness of 
the preacher." 

Of course the Greek scholar thus indicated was no other than 
More's friend Erasmus. The writer then addresses the uni- 
versity, and points out some of the advantages of the study of 
(keek, as he had done in his letter to Dorpius. He stimulates 
the authorities by the example of Cambridge, "to which you 
have hitherto always served as model {cui vos prcelucere se?nper con- 
suevistis), where there is now such zeal for Greek, that even 
those who do not study it themselves, generously contribute to 
maintain its professors". 

" In conclusion," he says " that he has written, not to instruct 


the learned authorities in their duties, which they understand far 
better than he, but to warn them not to let those factions grow 
and bring disgrace on the university, lest their chancellor, the 
Archbishop of Canterbury (Warham), or the Cardinal of York, 
the great patron of letters, should be forced to intervene; and, 
lastly — and here is the point of the whole letter, indicating 
from whom it really emanated — the learned and most Christian 
king will certainly not tolerate that good learning should decay 
in a place so favoured by himself and his ancestors. By re- 
pressing the factions of which he has spoken, the authorities will 
gain the favour of those most reverend fathers, and of their 
illustrious prince. Thomas More, from Abingdon, the 29th 
March (15 18)." 

This letter was written in Holy Week. On the very same 
day Pace wrote from Abingdon to Wolsey that " carding and 
dicing were turned into picking of arrows over the screen in 
the hall ".* We may imagine the smile of More at this change 
•of amusements. Though he was doubtless excused from feats 
of archery he was certainly throwing arrows, very sharp ones, 
and with no little effect, among some of the old-foshioned and 
self-satisfied " dons " of Oxford. 

By way of contrast with the above, I am glad to mention his 
relations with the sister university. Scarcely had he been 
made knight, when his friend and fellow-martyr, the Bishop of 
Rochester, sent to him a young theologian, whom he wished to 
be presented to the king. In the letter of introduction Fisher 
says : " Let some ray of favour shine from the throne by your 
means upon our Cantabrigians, in order to quicken and spur on 
our youth to the love of good letters, by the hope of sharing in 
the liberalities of so flourishing a prince. We have but few 
friends at court, who are both able and willing to recommend 
our affairs to the king's Highness, and of these few we reckon 
you the first, who hitherto and while in a lower orb have ever 

* Letters and Papers, ii. 4043. 


proved yourself our kind protector. Now that you are assumed 
to the equestrian order, and are so near the king (on which we 
both congratulate you and rejoice for ourselves) show how 
much you favour us." To this Sir Thomas replied that what- 
ever influence he had, though it was but little, should be at 
their service. He thanked them for the kind letters they had 
written to him. No man's house opens more freely to its 
master than his service and influence to them.* 

There were others besides More to write the king's letters 
both in Latin and in English, but More was a practised orator 
in both languages, and whenever an important or a ceremonial 
speech had to be made, it was allotted to him. In July, 151 8, 
Cardinal Laurence Campeggio arrived as legate a latere, in 
which commission Wolsey had been joined with him, to treat 
of resistance to the Turk. + The pomp with which he was 
received at Deal and brought to London was no doubt of 
Wolsey 's contrivance. From Blackheath he was accompanied 
to London by the Duke of Norfolk, the ambassadors of other 
powers, bishops, lords, and gentlemen in a cavalcade of 2000 
horses. As they drew near London Bridge the street was 
lined on both sides by the clergy in copes of gold, with no less 
than 60 gold and silver crosses and censers. At London 
Bridge two bishops presented him with the relics to kiss amid 
salvos of artillery. The crafts began their order at Gracechurch 
Street, and in Cheapside he was welcomed by the mayor and 
alderman and a brief Latin oration was delivered by Master 
More. Thence he proceeded to St. Paul's, and after another 
address by the Bishop of London was led to the altar. 

At the beginning of June, 1525, Lorenzo Orio, knight, 
arrived in England as Venetian ambassador. The king sent 
Lord Dacre and Sir John Dauncy with a great number of 
horsemen to conduct the envoy to Windsor. On the 6th of 

* Stapleton, cap. 5. 

t Ten years later they were again united in the matter of the divorce. 



June, the king received him in state with the cardinal, the 
Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Marquis of Dorset, and 
nearly all the knights of the garter. After he had presented 
his credentials and made his speech, " Sir Thomas More, a 
man of singular and rare learning, and in great favour with the 
king and cardinal" — such is Orio's report to the Doge and 
Signory — " returned thanks to the State ". The public cere- 
mony being ended, they went to jMass, no doubt in St. George's 
Chapel, after which the envoy dined with the cardinal, who 
afterwards took him to the queen's chamber, where he was 
received so graciously as to surprise all the bystanders ; so 
reports the gratified ambassador. * 

The year following he had again to address the ambassador 
of Venice. The matter is thus related to Francis I., by his 
own envoys who were present : " Last Sunday the Venetian 
ambassador had his first audience at Greenwich. He made a 
fair oration full of thanks to the king and Wolsey, to which 
Master More made a premeditated reply, a draft of the speech 
having been given by the ambassador to Wolsey three days 
before, at the request of the latter.'* f From these examples 
it is clear that More was the Latin orator, who had to do 
honour to the court of Henry, as wtII as to second the 
diplomacy of Wolsey. We shall trace presently More's own 
action in the treaties and embassies of Europe. He had 
joined the court in the hope of urging the king to the better 
government of his own country, and it is pleasant to find that 
he was not so disappointed as Hythloday predicted. Stowe 
gives an account of a work in which we may trace the influence 
of the new councillor. " About this time," he says, speaking 
of the year 1521, "the king being moved by such of his 
council as had regard to the commonwealth of this realm, 
considering how for the space of fifty years past and more, 

* Venetian State Papers, iii. 1037. 
f Letters and Papers, iv. 2638. 


the nobles and gentlemen of England had been given to grazing 
of cattle, and keeping of sheep, to the great decay of husbandry 
and tillage," caused the statutes to be put in force against 
unauthorised inclosures, and the houses from which husband- 
men had been evicted to be rebuilt. More had written strongly 
on this subject in his Utopia^ and there is no doubt that these 
measures were taken at his suggestion. 



WHEN More first entered into court life, and on the 
career of diplomacy, he compared himself, in a letter to 
Fisher, to a man, who not being trained to ride, sits avvk- 
^Yardly in his saddle. Yet, if there is one quality which shines 
conspicuously in More, it is his exquisite tact. This enabled 
him not merely to acquit himself well of his duties, or to 
ingratiate himself with all whom he met, but above all to 
keep his conscience upright and his soul unsullied. 

In following him through the remainder of the twelve years 
spent in the " king's service " previous to the chancellorship, 
the State Papers recently arranged and edited will be our 
principal guide, since the information to be derived from his 
biographers is scanty and confused. Throughout the whole of 
that period, when not absent on legations or duties belong- 
ing to his various offices, he acted as one of the royal secretaries. 
Wolsey, on account of his functions as chancellor had often to 
remain in Westminster, when the king was either amusing 
himself or seeking purer air in one of his country houses ; 
thus many letters passed between the great minister and the 
monarch. Wolsey's letters were addressed to More and by 
him read to the king, who gave to More the substance of his 
answer. The first volume of the large collection of State 
Papers of Henry VIII.^ contains a considerable number of 

* In eleven volumes, printed between 1830 and 1852. These are not 
to be confounded with the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII., still in 
course of publication. The latter cover a much wider field, but give in 
many cases a mere precis or abridgment of documents, especially 
of those already printed in full in the State Papers. 


such letters, and others have been printed by Sir Henry EUis ; 
but as in these More is merely a secretary, his personal action 
and character are but slightly and indirectly illustrated by them. 

The addresses of these letters show the restlessness of the 
king. They are dated from Greenwich, Hampton Court, 
Woodstock, Abingdon, Wallingford, "The More" (in Hert- 
fordshire), Oking (or Woking) in Surrey, New Hall (in Essex), 
Windsor and East Hampstead (near Windsor), Guildford, etc. 
This change of residence of course involved More's frequent 
absence from his home, and led to that correspondence with his 
children, some of which we have seen. 

It was his duty also to accompany the king on more solemn 
progresses. His name appears in the list of gentlemen from 
the county of Middlesex who were appointed to wait on the king 
and queen at the famous meeting with Francis I. between Calais 
and Boulogne in June, 1520, which from its gorgeous preparations 
was called the meeting of the Field of the Cloth of Gold.* 
There was little sincerity in this great show, unless the rivalry in 
magnificence betrayed its real character. At the same time 
counter negotiations were being carried on with the young 
emperor Charles V. More was one of the commissioners for 
the renewal of a treaty of commerce with the emperor, which 
was solemnly sworn to and subscribed on 12th April in the 
chapel at Greenwich ; at which time also a meeting was 
arranged between Henry and Charles. f This was to have taken 
place at Gravelines and Calais, after the interview with Francis ; 
but, taking advantage of a favourable wind, the emperor sailed 
for England in May, and managed to anticipate his rival. On 
26th May, 1520, the vigil of Pentecost, More writes to Erasmus 
from Canterbury : " The emperor is expected to-day ; the king 
will set out to meet him early in the morning, perhaps to-night. 
It is impossible to describe the delight of the king, the nobles and 

* Letters and Papers, iii. part ii, p. 243 (March 1520). 
t Rymer, xiii. 714. Litters and Papers, iii. 798, 804. 


even the people, when the message arrived that the emperor 
was on his way to England,"* Charles landed at Hithe with 
the Queen of Aragon and many noblemen and ladies. They 
were met by Wolsey and conducted to Dover Castle, which 
they reached at lo p.m. At 2 a.m. on the morning of Whit- 
sunday the king arrived at Dover, and the emperor arose to meet 
him. Early in the morning they rode to Canterbury to keep 
the feast, and were received in great state by Cardinal Wolsey 
and the Archbishop (Warham). The emperor and king 
walked together, under one canopy, to the shrine of St. 
Thomas (w^hich Henry was one day to plunder), and thence to 
the palace, where the emperor embraced his aunt, Queen 
Catharine (whom the king was one day to repudiate). At the 
High Mass the emperor offered first, then the king. Of course 
there was great banqueting. On Tuesday the sovereigns rode 
towards Dover, and Charles re-embarked at Sandwich. 

This was only the beginning of the pageants in which More 
had to play his part. On Thursday the king and queen, with 
their immense train of 4334 persons and 1637 horses, passed 
over to Calais. The great festivities lasted from the 4th to 
the 25th June, but need not be here described. Have they 
not been made famous by Shakespeare ? 

To-day, the French 
All clinquant, all in gold, like heathen gods, 
Shone down the English : and to-morrow, they 
Made Britain, India: every man that stood 
Show'd like a mine. 

What followed is less known. The emperor was waiting for 
the king of England at Gravelines, and after taking leave of 
Francis, Henry made his return visit to his imperial nephew 
on the loth July. When the emperor next day rode with the 
king to Calais, all the lords and estates of England vacated 
their lodgings to give hospitality to the Spaniards and Flemings. 

* Inter. Epist. Erasm. 433. The date is wrongly given by the editor. 


A marvellous banqueting house had been prepared ; on the 
ceiling were painted the heavens, with sun, moon, stars, and 
clouds, and images of wickerwork, covered with painted canvas, 
represented men of every nation, with "reasons" or inscrip- 
tions in various languages. It is probable enough that the 
learning of More had been enlisted in this pageantry. But, 
alas I when all the preparations were complete for the most 
splendid banquet ever given since the days of the Caesars, 
"the wind began to rise," says Stowe, "and increasing to the 
evening, it then on a sudden blew off the canvas heavens with 
the planets, and blew out more than looo torches of wax". 
However, on the 12th, amid new festivities, were solemnly 
read "all the articles of the league tripartite," between the 
emperor and the kings of France and England ; the emperor 
returned to Gravelines, and Henry to Dover. 

We may safely gather the thoughts of More, during the 
silly and wasteful extravagance of those months from what he 
had written, four years previously, in his Utopia^ where he had 
quaintly jested on the use of the precious metals and of jewels, 
as follows : — 

" The folly of men has enhanced the value of gold and 
silver because of their scarcity ; whereas, on the contrary, it is 
the opinion of the Utopians that nature, as an indulgent 
parent, has freely given us all the best things in great abun- 
dance, such as air, water, and earth, but has laid up and hid 
from us the things that are vain and useless. 

"To teach disdain for gold they have fallen upon an expedient 
which, as it agrees with their other policy, so is it very differ- 
ent from ours, and will scarce gain belief among us who value 
gold so much, and lay it up so carefully. They eat and drink 
out of vessels of earth and glass, which makes an agreeable 
appearance, though formed of britde materials ; while they 
make their vilest utensils of gold and silver, and that not only 
in their public halls but in their private houses. Of the same 
metals they likewise make chains and fetters for their slaves, 


to some of whom, as a badge of infamy, they hang an ear-ring 
of gold, and make others wear a ring, a chain, or a coronet of 
the same metal ; and thus they take care by all possible means 
to render gold and silver of no esteem. They find pearls on 
their coasts, and diamonds and carbuncles on their rocks ; 
they do not look after them, but, if they find them by chance, 
they polish them, and with them they adorn their children, 
who are delighted with them, and glory in them during their 
childhood ; but when they grow to years, and see that none 
but children use such baubles, they of their own accord, 
without by their parents, lay them aside, and would 
be as much ashamed to use them afterwards as children among 
us, when they come to years, are of their puppets and other 

There is also a clear reminiscence of the Field of Cloth of 
Gold in the answer which More made to Luther's declaration, 
that he would like to throw all the relics of the true Cross where 
the sun would never shine on them, and give their golden 
reliquaries to the poor. Among other things More answers : 
" How small a portion were the gold about all the pieces of 
Christ's Cross, if it were compared with the gold that is quite 
cast away about the gilding of knives, swords, spurs, arras and 
painted cloths ; and as though these things could not consume 
gold fast enough, the gilding of posts and whole roses, not 
only in the palaces of princes and great prelates, but also 
many right mean men's houses ! And yet among all these 
things could Luther spy no gold that grievously glittered in his 
bleared eyes, but only about the Cross of Christ." * 

It is amusing that the writer of all this should have been 
made a knight, or as he was then called, Eqties auratus^ " a 
gilded knight," because this dignity both entitled him and 
required of him to wear golden insignia, and to deck with 
gold the trappings of his horse, I and that he should generally 

* English Works, p. iig. 

t Selden's Titles of Honour, p. 437. 


be represented as wearing round his neck one of those massive 
gold chains, which he made the badge of notorious malefactors 
among his Utopians. 

While at Calais More had the great pleasure of meeting again 
his dear Erasmus,* and of being introduced by him to other 
learned men, among others to William Budee, the French 
king's secretary, and to Francis Cranefeld, councillor of the 
empire. To Budee, More wrote some weeks after: "I know 
not, my dear Budee, whether it is not better never to possess 
what becomes very near to our hearts, unless we can afterwards 
retain it. The reading of your works had created a beautiful 
image of you in my mind before we met, and I counted myself 
happy if I should ever behold you in reality. When my wish 
was at last fulfilled, I was happier than happiness itself. But 
ala^ ! our duties prevented us from meeting often enough to 
satisfy my desire of conversing with you, and in a few days, as 
our kings were obliged to separate, our intercourse was broken 
off when it had scarce begun, and we were torn away perhaps 
never to meet again." He trusts that they may continue their 
friendship by frequent correspondence. In another letter he 
tells him that, among various things that rendered him so dear, 
one was that erudition, formerly the prerogative of the clergy, 
Avas now seen in the highest degree in a married man.l- It is 
to be regretted that the whole correspondence between these 
two learned statesmen is not extant. When Budee was collect- 
ing his own letters for publication, he wished to include those 
received from More, but the latter demurred, as he had not 
written with the thought of publicity, and wished to re-examine 
them. Thus they were not printed. Budee mentions presents 

* Letters of Erasmus, 496, 509. 

t Tam incomparabilis eruditio, qu^e peculiaris olim cleri gloria fuerat, 
tibi feliciter obtigit uxorato ; nam KaiKhu appellare non sustineo, tam 
multis, tam egregiis dotibus, tam alte subvectum supra AaoV (Apud 
Stapleton, cap. 5). 


received from More of English dogs, of which he seems to have 
been glad to dispose very quickly to others. * 

Francis Cranefeld wrote to Erasmus from Bruges, thanking 
him for having introduced him to More. After Erasmus's 
departure they had conceived a great friendship for each other, 
and Cranefeld had been delighted with More's urbanity. More 
had given his wife a gold ring with an English inscription, and 
to himself some ancient coins, one of gold, and another of 
silver, one having the effigy of Tiberius, the other of Augustus. 
More also wrote to Erasmus, to tell the pleasure he had found 
in Cranefeld's company.t 

There was one jarring note in all this harmony — a literary 
controversy, the details of which occupy a considerable space 
in More's Latin works and the letters of Erasmus ; but, while 
it cannot be altogether passed over in a Life of More ^ it will be 
sufficient to give it in mere outline. During the war between 
France and England in 15 12, there had been a great naval 
contest, in which a large French ship, named the " Cordelier " 
(Chordigera), being already on fire, had borne down on a great 
English ship, grappled with it, and involved it in its own fate. 
A Frenchman, named Germain Ue Brie (Brixius), wrote some 
verses in glorification of this feat. Against the " Chordigera " of 
De Brie More composed some sharp epigrams, which had 
been circulated in MS. When it was proposed to publish a 
collection of his epigrams in 15 17, More had suggested to 
Erasmus and the friends who were superintending this publica- 
tion on the continent, the propriety of omitting these anti- 
French verses, now that peace was established. % They, 
however, decided to print them. The anger of De Brie was 
aroused, and he composed a satirical poem, which he called 
"Antimorus," in which he did his best to turn all More's epigrams 

* Letters given by Brewer. Letters and Papers, iii, 413. 

t Inter. Epist. Erasm., 532, 550. 

; lb., i-j^ (in App.) (3rd Sept. 1517). 


into ridicule. Erasmus, who was a friend of both, intervened 
to prevent the publication of l)e Erie's poem, and when his 
efforts were unsuccessful, to prevent More from retaliating. 

To De Brie, Erasmus complains of his acerbities, and tells him 
that More stands too high in general estimation for him to in- 
jure — that if More wrote somewhat against France, it was during 
the war. Why, then, make quarrels now in time of peace ? 
More has not published but merely allowed the publication of 
his epigrams, if others would superintend it.* To More he 
wrote a soothing letter, telling him De Brie could do him no 
real harm, and that it was more dignified to remain silent, f 
More replied that he had heard two years ago that De Brie 
was preparing his attack, and he had intended writing to him 
a most friendly letter, but he had heard so much about him 
from Paris that he saw it would be in vain. Berald, Lascar, 
Budee, and Deloin, had all sought to no purpose to prevent 
him from publishing his book. In the meantime More had 
hoped that, from so long a preparation, something learned and 
witty would come, which he should have enjoyed, even though 
the laugh was against himself He found it, however, full of 
folly and venom, and had resolved not to answer it ; but he 
was overpersuaded by friends to whom he was wont to defer. 
Still, Erasmus's wish has so much force with him, that, though 
his answer is already printed, he has bought it all up. Five 
copies only had been sold, when the letter of Erasmus came 
to hand, and he at once sto])ped the sale. He had sent a copy 
to Erasmus and another to Peter Giles, the rest he would keep 
until he heard further from Erasmus. He left himself in his 
hands as to the publication or non-publication of the book. 
"When we come to Calais," he writes, "for which the king 
is about to start, we will talk over the matter more at length. 
In this meeting of the kings I expect you and De Brie also ; 

* Letter 511, of 25th June, 1520, a letter very honourable to More as 
well as to the writer, 
t Letter 503. 


since the French queen will be there, and he, as her secretary, 
can hardly be absent. So far as I am concerned you can 
easily arrange the matter ; for though without any reason he 
has so treated me, as to show that the only thing wanting to 
him for my destruction is ability, yet since you, Erasmus, are 
more than half of myself, the fact that De Brie is your friend 
will weigh more with me than that he is my enemy." * 

For some reason not known to us, More finally published 
his book. Erasmus wrote to Budee, i6th February, 1521 : 
"I fear the quarrel between De Brie and More will grow 
hot, for the letter of More, w^hich I think you saw before More 
showed it me at Calais already printed, is so sharp, that I who 
am thought by some pretty mordant, am toothless compared 
with him ; and yet he almost promised me that he would 
suppress it, if De Brie would keep quiet ".f There is little 
to interest us at present in More's pamphlet, except perhaps 
his defence of what he had written against the avarice w^hich 
disfigured the last years of Henry VII. On the whole, the 
temper of More appears less to advantage in this piece than 
in any other of his writings. The thought is forced on us, as 
we read the Latin letters, and dedications and controversies of 
the literates of the sixteenth century, that their mutual praises 
are somewhat boyish, and that they show themselves over 
sensitive of their reputation as scholars. 

More was not knighted at the time he accompanied the 
king to Calais. This dignity seems to have been conferred 
on him in the summer of 152 1, about the time he was made 
sub-treasurer. Erasmus wrote to Pace on nth June, 152 1 : 
" I hear that More has been made treasurer, and that the office 
is as profitable as it is honourable. He succeeds so well at 
court that I pity him. But I am rejoiced by the hope he 
gives me that I may see him again in August ; " :|: and a few 

Inter. Epist. Erasm., 553. fib-, 565. 

t lb., 577' 


months later he writes to Budee : " More has been made 
treasurer. That office in England is most honourable, and 
at the same time neither very troublesome in itself, nor 
exposed to odium. He had a rival candidate, a man who 
was in good favour, who was willing to take the office, and 
to live at his own expense. But the excellent king gave an 
undoubted proof of his partiality for More, when, rather than 
accept his rival's offer, he preferred to give the office to More 
without his seeking it, and with a salary besides. And not 
satisfied with this, he has raised him to the dignity of a 

Erasmus calls More treasurer. This office, however, was 
always reserved for one of the great lords ; and at that time 
was held by the Duke of Norfolk. More was under-treasurer, 
an office which corresponds in some respects with that of 
chancellor of the exchequer at the present day, who is also 
technically under-treasurer.+ 

Not a year had passed since the tripartite Treaty was read 
at Calais, before the emperor and the king of France were 
again at war, and Wolsey again crossed the Channel to make 
peace, or to affect to do so, while intriguing in his own king's 
interest. The Imperial and French ambassadors met him 
at Calais, with the Papal Nuncio, the ambassadors of Naples 
and Hungary, and the Venetian envoy to England. The last 
mentioned, Antonio Suriano, wrote to the Signory on July 25, 
152 1, from London: "A diet is being held about certain dis- 
putes concerning the merchants. This morning the Govern- 
ment sends thither Sir Thomas More, Dr. Sampson, etc.":|; He 
was to join the cardinal at Calais when his own work at Bruges 
was completed. On 24th July, Pace, the king's secretary, 
wrote to Wolsey: "The king signifieth to Your Grace that, 

* Epist. Erastii. 605, Equitis aurati dignitatem adjecit. 
t Sir James Mackintosh {Life of More, p. 73). 
X Venetian State Papers, iii. 272. 


whereas old men do now decay greatly within this his realm, 
his mind is to acquaint other young men with his great affairs, 
and, therefore, he desireth Your Grace to make Sir William 
Sandys and Sir Thomas More privy to all such matters as Your 
Grace shall treat at Calais ".* 

Wolsey, with his great following, had arrived at Calais on 2nd 
August ; but as the papal ambassador had not received the 
necessary commission to sign the league between the Pope, the 
emperor, and the two kings, while a messenger was being 
despatched to Rome, Wolsey took advantage of the delay to 
visit the emperor at Bruges, where he remained a fortnight. 
We have a glimpse of Sir Thomas in a letter of Gasparo 
Contarini, patriarch of Venice, and at that time ambassador of 
his republic with Charles V. : "On coming away from solemn 
Mass of the Holy Ghost in St. James's Church (celebrated in the 
presence of the emperor, the cardinal, and the resident 
ambassadors), I invited an English gentleman, by name 
Master Thomas More, a very learned man, to dine with me. 
He had accompanied Wolsey to Bruges. During dinner we 
discussed the business negotiated with the emperor, but More 
did not drop the slightest hint of any other treaty than that of 
peace between the king of France and His Imperial Majesty. "t 
More was probably aware of what we know now, that the real 
subject of the conferences was the betrothal of the emperor 
to his cousin, the Princess Mary of England. 

Stapleton tells us X that during their stay in Bruges some vain- 
glorious disputant put up a public challenge to dispute on any 
question in civil or canon law, or matter of science or literature. 
More could not let slip an opportunity for a joke. By way of 
answer he affixed this question from English law : An averia 
capta in zvii/iernaf?iia sunt irreplegiabilia ? which is said to mean : 
"Whether catdc taken in withernam be irrepleviable?'' (Wither- 

* State Papers of Henry VIII. i. ig. 
t Venetian State Papers, iii. 302. 
:|: Vita Mori, cap. 13. 


nam was a writ to make reprisals on one who had wrongfully 
distrained another man's cattle, and driven them out of the 
county.) The document stated that there was a gentleman in 
the English ambassador's suite who was willing to discuss this 
point of law with the challenger. It is unnecessary to say that 
the doctor utriusque juris could not understand even the terms 
of the question, and got well laughed at for his vanity. 

More returned with Wolsey to Calais, where negotiations 
were protracted until November ; but in October he was sent as 
special messenger to the king. Wolsey wrote to the king that, 
with regard to certain matters, he had sent Sir Thomas More, 
the under-treasurer, and Sir William Fitzwilliam : "to the which, 
your councillors, it may like your Grace not only to give firm 
credence in, but also to give unto them your gracious thanks 
for such their laudable acquittal and diligent attendance as they 
have done and taken in this journey for the advancement of 
your honour and contentation of your pleasure".* 

The spring of 1522 renewed the splendours of 152 1, though 
on a different field. The emperor again visited England, and 
this time advanced not only to Canterbury but to London and 
Windsor. Full descriptions of the festivities are found in the 
chroniclers, but the mere fact that More was present would not 
justify any detail here, f 

In April, 1523, a parliament was summoned, and by the 
influence of Wolsey, Sir Thomas was chosen speaker. He 
according to custom " disabled " himself, i.e.^ declared his 
unfitness for such an ofifice ; and when his excuses were rejected 

* State Papers, i. 74. Also, Letters and Papers, iii. App. 31. In 
the royal expenses for 1521 we find £80 to Sir T. More, of which £5 was 
a loan, and £j^ for his "diets" when absent from England with the 
" Easterlings," at the rate of 20s. a day {Letters, etc., iii. 1775). On 
8th May, 1522, he had a grant of the manor of South, in Kent, with ad- 
vowson, which had come into the king's hands by the attainder of the 
Duke of Buckingham {lb., iii. 2239). 

t Letters and Papers^ iii. 2288. 


by the king, he went on in a speech which Roper has given at 
length and probably transcribed from the draft left of it by 
More, to demand the usual privileges of the speaker and of 
the commons, especially for the latter freedom of deliberation. 
Roper proceeds to tell how Cardinal Wolsey came down to the 
House of Commons in order to urge them to grant the subsidy, 
to which they had shown reluctance. The commons debated 
whether it were better to receive him with a few only of his 
lords, or with his whole train. The opinion of the majority 
was that his attendants should be very few, but Sir Thomas 
thus addressed them : " Masters, forasmuch as my Lord 
Cardinal lately laid to our charges the lightness of our tongues 
for things uttered out of this house, it shall not in my mind be 
amiss to receive him with all his pomp, with his maces, his 
pillars, poleaxes, his crosses, his hat, and the great seal too, to 
the intent that if he find the like fault with us hereafter, we may 
be bolder from ourselves to lay the blame on those that his Grace 
brought here with him ".* This advice prevailed, the cardinal 
addressed the house, but in vain tried to get a word of answer 
from anyone, though he appealed to some by name. Sir 
Thomas on his knees excused this silence, saying that it was 
the ancient privilege to speak only by the speaker's mouth, but 
that he could not do this until he had heard their debates. 

" Whereupon," says Roper, " the cardinal, displeased with 
Sir Thomas More that had not in this parliament in all things 
satisfied his desire,t suddenly arose and departed, and, after 
the parliament ended, in his gallery at Whitehall said to him : 
' Would God you had been at Rome, Mr. More, when I made 
you speaker'. 'Your Grace not offended, so would I too,' 

* He can scarcely have made so sarcastic a speech publicly ; the terms 
are such as he might have used in private conversation when asked his 

t " The speaker of the Tudor reigns," writes Bishop Stubbs, " is the 
manager of business on the part of the crown " {Lectures on Medieval 
and Modern History, p. 272). 


quoth Sir Thomas. And to wind such quarrels out of the 
cardinal's head he began to talk of the gallery, saying, ' I like 
this gallery of yours much better than your gallery of Hampton 
Court '. Wherewith so wisely broke he off the cardinal's 
displeasant talk, that the cardinal at that present, as it seemed, 
wist not what more to say to him. But for the revengement of 
his displeasure counselled the king to send him ambassador to 
Spain, commending to his Highness his wisdom, fitness and learn- 
ing for that voyage. And the difficulty of the cause considered, 
none was there, he said, so fit so serve his Grace therein. 
Which when the king had broken to Sir Thomas More, and 
that he had declared unto his Grace how unfit a journey it was 
for him, the nature of the country, and the disposition of his 
complexion so disagreeing together, that he should never be 
able to do his Grace acceptable service there, knowing right 
well that if his Grace sent him thither he should send him to 
his grave ; but showing himself nevertheless ready according to 
his duty, were it with the loss of his life, to fulfil his Grace's 
pleasure in that behalf The king, allowing well his answer, 
said unto him : ' It is not our pleasure, Mr. More, to do you 
hurt, but to do you good would we be glad. We will, therefore, 
for this purpose devise some other, and employ your service 
otherwise.' " 

These things must have been related to Roper by More 
when they occurred, and their substantial truth can, therefore, 
scarcely be called in question.* Yet if any part of More's 
conduct as speaker really caused Wolsey to say some hasty 
words, the following letter of Wolsey to the king was certainly 
not written under any feeling of displeasure : — 

" Sir, — After my most humble recommendations. It may 
like your Grace to understand, I have showed unto this bearer, 
Sir Thomas More, divers matters to be by him on my behalf 
declared unto your Highness. And, sire, whereas it hath been 
accustomed that the speakers of the parliaments, in considera- 

* Unfortunately there are no Journals of the Cotnvions before 1547. 



tion of their diligence and pains taken, have had, though the 
parhament hath been right soon finished, above the ;£ioo 
ordinary, a reward of ;£^ioo, for the better maintenance of their 
household, and other charges sustained in the same ; I sup- 
pose, sir, that the faithful diligence of the said Sir Thomas in 
all your causes treated in this your late parliament, as well for 
your subsidy right honourably passed, as otherwise, considered, 
no man could better deserve the same than he hath done ; 
wherefore, your pleasure known therein, I shall cause the same 
to be advanced to him accordingly — ascertaining your Grace 
that I am the rather moved to put your Highness in re- 
membrance thereof, because he is not the most ready to speak 
and solicit his own cause. At your Manor of Hampton 
Court, the 24th day of August [1523], by your most humble 
chaplain. T. Card., EborP * 

If this letter shows a very kind feeling on the cardinal's 
part towards Sir Thomas, a letter of More's to Wolsey, written 
a few days later, proves that the feeling was mutual. He was 
acting as the king's secretary at Woking. He tells the cardinal 
how pleased the king had been with a certain letter which 
Wolsey had drafted, to be sent to the Queen of Scots, the 
king's sister : — 

"Among which, the letter which your Grace devised in the 
name of his Highness to the queen, his sister, his Grace so well 
liked that I never saw him like anything better, and, so help 
me God, in my poor phantasy, not causeless, for it is for the 
quantity one of the best made letters for words, matter, 
sentences, and couching that ever I read in my life".t 

No one will suspect More of flattering with an interested 
motive, or even of insincerity in these words. He liked to 
praise when he could, as we have seen in his letters to his 
children, and if such language shows that he knew that the 
great minister was somewhat childish in his love of admiration, 
yet he humoured him out of native kindliness and gratitude. 

* State Papers, i. 124. f State Papers, i. 128. 


Stapleton relates that, when More had been but a short time 
privy councillor, Wolsey proposed that a new office should be 
created — that of Supreme Constable of the Kingdom, to repre- 
sent the king everywhere, a thing unknown to the constitution, 
the cardinal having, of course, an ambitious motive in such a 
proposal. The whole Council was easily won over to his 
view ; but when More's turn came to speak, he disapproved the 
plan, and defended his opinion with so many solid reasons that 
the Council declared that the matter required further delibera- 
tion. The cardinal, in his anger, exclaimed: "Are you not 
ashamed, Mr. More, being the last in place and dignity, to 
dissent from so many noble and prudent men ? You show 
yourself a foolish councillor." " Thanks be to God," replied 
More at once, "that his royal Highness has but one fool in his 
Council." However, the question was postponed, and Wolsey 's 
plan finally rejected.* 

On the whole, the relations between Wolsey and More seem 
to have been cordial. It is probable that the cardinal rather 
feared than loved him,f since he could not doubt that More 
was quite unawed by his grandeur, and read his character 
thoroughly. Yet he knew that More was no rival, and he ad- 
mired his disinterestedness and integrity. To propose for him 
an embassy in Spain, might be an honourable way of removing 
one whom he could not make his tool, yet there was surely 
nothing in the Spanish climate so deadly as to justify us in 
attributing to him the revengeful and murderous motive hinted 
at by Roper. All seems to be explained, if we suppose that 
Alore saw in the cardinal's proposal a plan to get him away 
from England, and that More also saw (what the cardinal did 
not see) that for him the climate would be perilous. The 
Catholics of the days of Mary and Elizabeth bore a very re- 
sentful feeling towards Cardinal Wolsey. They were convinced 

* Stapleton, cap. 13. 

+ lb., cap. 3. Erasmus says the same thing. 


that his pride, ambition, and worldly policy had been the 
principal cause of the degeneracy of Henry VIII. and of the 
schism into which the country had been cast ; and they were 
inclined to wrest all his words and deeds in sinistram partem. 

The records of the next few years contain nothing on which 
we need delay. Sir Thomas More's name is among those of 
the gentlemen in the royal army beyond the sea, under the 
Duke of Suffolk, when war broke out again between England 
and France, in August, 1523; yet other documents show that 
he did not leave England. Either then the arrangements were 
cancelled, or the document refers to another Sir Thomas More, 
a gentlemen of Dorset.* In August, 1523, Sir Thomas, the 
subject of this memoir, was appointed one of the collectors of 
the subsidy in Middlesex.f In July, 1525, without ceasing to 
be sub-treasurer, he was made Chancellor of the Duchy of 
Lancaster, an office of dignity and importance ; while the king 
still kept him near his person to act as his secretary and his 
master of requests.:,: Indeed, the king seems to have been 
impatient of his absence even in the necessary discharge of his 
duties. On 26th November, 1523, the cardinal writes to the 
king : " For such great matters, as at the knitting up of this 
term be requisite to be ordered in your exchequer, Sir Thomas 
More may in no wise be spared from thence for four or five 

* For Sir Thomas More's name, see Letters and Papers, iii. 3288. 
The presence of Sir Thomas More, the secretary and treasurer, in 
England throughout August and September, 1523, from many letters 
in State Papers, vol. i. Sir Thomas More, of " Mylplesshe," Dorset, 
Letters and Papers, iv. 6721, v. 1598, 1694, vii. 508, etc. To this 
latter probably belongs the £733 6s. 8d., a debt due to the king by Sir 
Thomas More, among the debts " whereof the days of payment be past, 
and the money not paid". This particular debt had been contracted 
tempore Henrici VII. It could not be by our More. A licence to 
export 1000 woollen cloths {lb., iv. 2248) to Sir Thomas More may also 
belong to the Dorsetshire knight. 

f Letters, etc., iii. 3282. 

tib., iv. 1939, 


days ; for which time it may like your Highness to forbear his 
coming ".* 

Of the king's fondness for More, Roper has given us details, 
of some of which he was eye-witness, while the rest he could 
learn from his intimate familiarity with his father-in-law. 
"The king," he says, "upon holidays, when he had done 
his own devotions, used to send for him into his traverse, and 
there, sometimes in matters of astronomy, geometry, divinity, 
nnd such other faculties, and sometimes of his worldly affairs, 
to sit and converse with him. And otherwhile in the night 
would he have him up into his leads, there to consider with 
him the diversities, courses, motions and operations of the 
stars and planets. And because he was of a pleasant disposi- 
tion, it pleased the king and queen after the council had 
supped, yea at the time of their supper, to send for him to be 
merry with them. Who, when he perceived so much in his 
talk to delight that he could not in a month get leave to go 
home to his wife and children (whose company he most 
desired), and to be absent from the court two days together, 
but that he should be thither sent for again ; he, much mis- 
liking this restraint of liberty, began thereupon somewhat to 
dissemble his nature, and so by little and little from his accus- 
tomed mu-th to disuse himself, that he was of them thenceforth 
no more so ordinarily sent for at such seasons." 

Elsewhere, however, the same writer tells us that if More 
escaped for some time by this artifice, the king's desire of 
his company was not appeased : " Such entire favour did the 
king bear him that he made him Chancellor of the Duchy of 
Lancaster ; and for the pleasure he took in his company would 
His Grace suddenly sometimes come home to his house at 
Chelsea, to be merry with him. Whither, on a time unlocked 
for, he came to dinner with him, and after dinner, in a fair 
garden of his, walked with him by the space of an hour, 

* State Papers, i. 146. ' 


holding his arm about his neck.* As soon as his Grace was 
gone, I, rejoicing thereat, said to Sir Thomas More, how 
happy he was whom the king had so famiharly entertained, as 
I never had seen him do to any other, except Cardinal Wolsey, 
whom I saw His Grace walk once with arm in arm. ' I thank 
our Lord, son,' quoth he, ' I find His Grace my very good 
lord indeed, and I believe he doth as singularly favour me as 
any subject within this realm. Howbeit, son Roper, I may 
tell thee, I have no cause to be proud thereof, for if my head 
would win him a castle in France (for then was there war 
betwixt us), it should not fail to go.' " f 

This saying is a remarkable evidence of More's insight into 
character, and, it may be said, of his prescience. It also re- 
minds us that to understand More's life and character we must 
not lose sight of the fact that, while he was yearly progressing 
in wisdom and virtue, the king was fast declining. On this 
subject I may quote the words of Dr. Brew^er, as one best 
qualified to speak: — 

"Until the close of the year 1524," says this writer, "the 
superabundant activity of the king himself and his young 
courtiers, wasting itself mainly in muscular amusements, or ex- 
changing them for the less justifiable excitement of dice and 
card-playing, found more wholesome occupation in the war with 
France, or the expectation of war. But the defeat of Francis 
at the battle of Pavia left them in utter idleness, without the 
hope of employment. Men of education, sagacity and ex- 
perience—generally ecclesiastics — were at that time engaged 
in all diplomatic posts requiring more than usual tact and 
ability. For such employment the nobility and gentry who 
frequented the new court were either disqualified by ignorance 
of their own, and still more of the Latin tongue — the common 

* The king was tall, More somewhat short. 

t Though Roper had mentioned the appointment to the chancellor- 
ship of the duchy, this conversation must have been earlier, for there 
was no war with France after that date. 


vehicle of communication — or declined to qualify themselves 
by the necessary sacrifices of their time and amusements. 

"In 1525 the king, then thirty-six years old, was beginning to 
pay less attention to business. He hated the drudgery of looking 
over files of despatches, from which the most exciting topic was 
absent ; withdrew himself more and more from the metropolis, 
and spent his days in hunting. Removed more than ever from 
the personal influence of Wolsey, Henry was surrounded by 
favourites, who recommended themselves to his notice by 
ministering to his pleasures, and fostering his love of profusion. 
With them, or some of them, Henry spent the day in hunting 
and the night in gambling, losing occasionally large sums of 
money. In 1525 he had attempted to make a favourite of Sir 
Thomas More, professing to be delighted with his society, his 
wit, his modesty, and his learning. At the death of Sir Richard 
Wingfield, in July, 1525, the king had advanced More to the 
Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster. 

" That More, combining the religious fervour and devotion 
of the recluse with the urbanity, grace, and ready wit of the 
most cultivated man of the world, a considerate and patient 
master, a pattern of conjugal purity and fidelity, should not 
seek to push his fortune among the unscrupulous candidates 
for royal favour, is no more than might be expected. He knew 
well what were the king's intentions at that time (1527),* and 
did not approve of them. He knew, also, how hard it was to 
contend with one whose arguments he could not admit without 
peril of his conscience, or contradict without peril of his life. 
His learning, his reputation, his legal acquirements, were sure 
to point him out to the king as the one man above all others 
whose judgment on the question none would venture to im- 
pugn, and few would be inclined to dispute. That judgment 
he had avoided giving with all the tact and dexterity of which 
he was master. But.the pursuits of the court and the individuals 

* The allusion is to the divorce. 


of which its innermost circle was composed were scarcely 
such as could command his sympathy and approbation. There 
was hardly one of them whose character was not seriously 
tainted with that vice against which the unsullied purity of 
More's mind revolted ; not one who looked upon the trans- 
gression of the marriage vow as deserving reprobation or 
censure, or at least as worse than a jest."* 

This passage, in its review of More's position at court, has 
brought us to the date of the great divorce question. I will 
postpone this for awhile, and conclude the chapter by mention- 
ing some of the diplomatic labours in which More was engaged 
previous to his receiving the great seal as chancellor of the 

In August, 1525, he was appointed, together with Nicolas 
West, Bishop of Ely, to arrange with the French envoys the 
conditions of a truce between France and England. t A treaty 
was enacted the next year at Hampton Court, and again More 
was one of the Commission.;]: Similar negotiations were con- 
cluded at Westminster in May, 1527. On this occasion More's 
colleague was Stephen Gardiner. § These various treaties were 
only preliminaries to a solemn embassy sent into France in 
1527. Wolsey went in person, with almost more than royal 
state, to meet the French king. Sir Thomas More was one 
of those who accompanied the cardinal, not simply to swell his 
pomp, but to act as his councillor. They left London on 
AVednesday, the 3rd July. Thursday night was spent in the 
Bishop of Rochester's palace. We know of the long interview 
in which Wolsey tried to over-reach the holy bishop with regard 

* Brewer, Introduction to Letters and Papers, vol. iv. p. 216, sq. 

+ Rymer, xiv. 48. 

Ij: Rymer, xiv. 185. On 14th July, 1526, Spinelli writes that " Sir 
Thomas More, his Majesty's secretary, has returned from France, with 
the articles of the " mutual obligation " {Venetian State Papers, iii. 


§ Letters and Papers, iv. 3080, 3105, 3138. 


to the question of the king's marriage, which had just then been 
secretly mooted before the two archbishops, but we have no 
record of the cordial embraces between Fisher and More, the 
two loving friends so soon to be brother-martyrs. Their con- 
versation would have been about the captivity and danger of 
the Holy Father Clement VIL, then besieged in his castle of 
St. Angelo, while Rome was given up to the most cruel and 
brutal outrages ever recorded in history. Before leaving home, 
More had gone with his family to take part in the solemn sup- 
plications for the Pope in his parish church. On leaving 
Rochester he joined Wolsey and W^arham in the Cathedral 
Church of Canterbury in similar devotions. Passing over to 
Calais on the nth, they remained there some days, and then 
went by Boulogne to Abbeville, where they were detained by 
the diplomacy of Francis. On Sunday, the 3rd August, they 
were met outside Amiens by the French king, the king of 
Navarre, cardinals, bishops and nobles. After saluting the 
cardinal, Francis (says Wolsey, in his report to the king), 
" saluted my Lord of London (Tunstall), my Lord Chamberlain 
(Lord Sandys), Master Controller (Sir Henry Guildford), the 
Chancellor of the Duchy (Sir T. More), and such other ser- 
vants and gentlemen as accompanied me ". After preparing 
himself in the magnificent lodging to which the king conducted 
him in person, Wolsey went with his great gentlemen, among 
whom was More, to visit the queen-mother. On Sunday, 17th 
August, the treaty of peace was solemnly sworn in the cathedral 
church of Amiens. They remained at Amiens honoured by 
splendid festivities till the end of August, and the king accom- 
panied them for some distance on their journey home. It was 
nearly the end of September when they reached the shores of 

More crossed the English Channel many times, but not once 
the Irish Sea. On 15th June, 1529, John I)u Bellay, the 

* Various letters in State Papers, vol, i. , and Cavendish's Life of 


French ambassador in London, wrote to Montmorency : " In 
Ireland there were some practices going on by those of the 
country, to which a stop has been put in good time. I think 
they are going to send Master More thither to treat with them."* 
Another employment was however found. He was joined with 
the Bishop of London (Tunstall), Knight and Hacket, in an 
embassy to Cambray, in which the English ambassadors were 
to meet those of the emperor, of the Pope, and of the king of 
France. Campeggio, who had come to England as legate on 
the affair of the divorce, wrote on the 29th June to Salviati : 
" I hear the king has had much discussion with the Cardinal of 
York, proposing, as the cardinal is unable to go to Cambray, 
to send thither the Bishop of London, a man of sense and 
merit, and More, a learned layman".! The next day the Bishop 
of Bayonne wrote to the king of France that the king of Eng- 
land begged him to defer his proceedings at Cambray till his 
ambassadors, the Bishop of London and Master More, should 
arrive ; for considering their age and quality, they could not be 
expected to travel post.;J: 

In another letter Cardinal Campeggio writes : "The Bishop 
of London and More departed on the ist (July) to attend the 
congress. They had particular instructions to promote the 
interests of the Poi)e and the Holy See. I believe they will 
use their good offices in this respect, because I did my utmost 
both with the king and with them."§ These words are full 
of interest. Had the three men thus brought together died in 
that year, 1529, history would have classed them together, as 
equally loynl and zealous for the honour and welfare of the 
Sovereign Pontiff. In a few years, however, they had been 

* Letters and Papers, iv. 5679. 

\Ih., iv. 5733. 

t//'., iv. 5741. In the treasurer's account is an entry of ;£"66 13s. 4d. 
advanced to Sir Thomas More for his diets at 26s. 8d. per day (/Z>., v. 
P- 312). 

^ J^; 5775- 


"sifted like wheat". Henry's pride and sensuality had driven 
him into hatred of the Pope and obstinate schism, in which 
he died. Tunstall had followed him into schism, but re- 
covered and died at last in the unity of the Church. More 
had won the martyr's crown in defence of the supremacy. 

The Treaty of Cambray was signed by Margaret of Savoy on 
the part of Charles V. : by Tunstall, More, and Racket, on the 
part of Henry: and by Francis, on 8th August, 1529, in the 
Cathedral Church of Cambray;* the ambassadors returned to 
England, and More visited Wolsey on 23rd August. But the 
days of that minister's glory were nearly numbered, and More 
was to be his successor. 

In mentioning in this and preceding chapters the numerous 
treaties of which Sir Thomas More was a negotiator, I have 
said very little as to their causes, their provisions, or their re- 
sult. To have done so, it would have been necessary to enter 
more deeply into public history than befits a biography. It 
may have been noticed, however, that his legal and practical 
skill was chiefly employed in commercial treaties. As regards 
the purely political diplomacy of those days, he had spoken with 
ruthless satire in his Utopia. The whole passage will be the 
best commentary on this chapter : — 

"The Utopians call those nations that come and ask 
magistrates from them Neighbours ; but those to whom they 
have been of more particular service, Friends ; and as all other 
nations are perpetually either making leagues or breaking them, 
they never enter into an alliance with any state. They think 
leagues are useless things, and believe that if the common ties 
of huuianity do not knit men together, the faith of promises 
will have no great effect ; and they are the more confirmed in 
this by what they see among the nations round about them, 
who are no strict observers of leagues and treaties. We know 
how religiously they are observed in Europe, more particularly 
where the Christian doctrine is received, among whom they are 

* Rymer, xiv. 326. 


sacred and inviolable ! which is partly owing to the justice and 
goodness of the princes themselves, and partly to the reverence 
they pay to the Popes, who, as they are the most religious 
observers of their own promises, so they exhort all other princes 
to perform theirs ; and, when fainter methods do not prevail, 
they compel them to it by the severity of the pastoral censure, 
and think that it would be the most indecent thing possible if 
men who are particularly distinguished by the title of ' The 
Faithful' should not religiously keep the faith of their treaties. 
But in that new-found world, which is not more distant from 
us in situation than the people are in their manners and course 
of life, there is no trusting to leagues, even though they were 
made with all the pomp of the most sacred ceremonies ; on the 
contrary, they are on this account the sooner broken, some 
slight pretence being found in the words of the treaties, which 
are purposely couched in such ambiguous terms that they can 
never be so strictly bound but they will always find some loop- 
hole to escape at ; and thus they break both their leagues and 
their faith ; and this is done with such impudence, that those 
very men who value themselves on having suggested these 
expedients to their princes would, with a haughty scorn, declaim 
against such craft, or, to speak plainer, such fraud and deceit, 
if they found private men make use of it in their bargains, and 
would readily say that they deserved to be hanged. 

" By this means it is that every sort of justice passes with 
them for a low-spirited and vulgar virtue, far below the dignity 
of royal greatness — or at least there are set up two sons of 
justice : the one is mean and creeps on the ground, and, there- 
fore, becomes none but the lower part of mankind, and, being 
kept in severely by many restraints, is not able to break out be- 
yond the bounds that are set to it ; the other is the peculiar 
virtue of princes, which, as it is more majestic than that which 
becomes the rabble, so takes a freer compass, and thus nothing 
is unlawful except what is unpleasant. These practices of the 
princes that lie about Utopia, who make so little account of 


their faith, seem to be the reasons that determine them to 
engage in no confederacy. Perhaps they would change their 
mind if they Hved among us." 

If this biting irony had been deserved by the diplomacy of 
Europe in 15 15, when More thus wrote, it had not ceased to 
be merited in 1529, when Machiavelli's principles had practically 
become the code of princes, and Charles V., Francis I., and 
Henry VIII. were ceaselessly intent on outwitting each oiher. 
Sir Thomas More's part, however, was confined to the making 
of the promises and engagements ; he left the responsibility of 
breaking them to others. 

After this review of More's public life and period of prosperity, 
the reader will be interested to know what was his interior life 
before God. In addition to what has been said of this by his 
biographers, especially Roper and Siapleton, as related in 
previous chapters, we have a picture of a holy statesman drawn 
by his own pen, in which he has unconsciously described him- 
self; or rather we have an account given of a method of sancti- 
fication, which we know from other sources to have been the 
one so successfully adopted by himself. In the Dialogue of 
Comfort against Tribulation^ written in the Tower, Sir Thomas 
gives the following advice as to the means by which a 
man may keep himself humble in a state of honour and 
prosperity : " 'I'o the intent that he may think of such things 
(as death and judgment) the better, let him use often to resort 
to confession, and there open his heart, and by the mouth of 
some good, virtuous, ghostly father, have such things oft re- 
newed in his remembrance. Let him also choose himself some 
secret solitary place, as far from noise and company as he con- 
veniently can, and thither let him sometimes secretly resort 
alone, imagining himself as one going out of the world, even 
straight unto the giving up of his reckoning unto God of his 
sinful life. Then let him there before an altar, or some pitiful 
image of Christ's bitter Passion, kneel down or fall prostrate, as 
at the feet of Almighty God, verily believing Him to be there 


invisibly present, as without any doubt He is. There let him 
open his heart to God, and confess his faults, such as he can 
call to mind, and pray God of forgiveness. Let him also call 
to remembrance the benefits that God hath given him, either 
in general among other men, or privately to himself, and give 
Him humble, hearty thanks therefor. There let him declare unto 
God the temptations of the devil, the suggestions of the flesh, the 
occasions of the world and of his worldly friends — much worse 
many times in drawing a man from God than are his most 
mortal enemies. There let him lament and bewail unto God 
his own fraility, negligence, and sloth in resisting and with- 
standing of temptations, his readiness and pronity to fall there- 
unto. Then let him beseech God of His gracious aid and 
help to strengthen his infirmity withal, both in keeping him 
from falling, and when he by his own fault misfortuneth to fall, 
then with the helping hand of His merciful grace to lift him up 
and set him on his feet in the state of grace again. And let 
this man not doubt that God heareth him and granteth him 
gladly this boon; and so, dwelling in the faithful trust of God's 
help, he shall well use his prosperity and persevere in his good, 
profitable business, and shall have therein the truth of God to 
compass him about with a pa vice [a shield] of His heavenly 
defence ; that of the devil's arrow flying in the day * of worldly 
wrath he shall not need to dread. "t 

■* " Scuto circumdabit te Veritas ejus ... a sagitta volante in die " 
(Ps. xc. 5, 6). 

+ Book ii. ch. xvii., English Works, p. 1201. 



WE come now to a new phase in the Hfe we are studying. 
Among many writers it has become a theory that there 
were two Thomas Mores, as there were two Henries 
called the Eighth ; that as the king degenerated, under the 
influence of baffled lust and wounded pride, from a pious and 
affable prince to a sensual and cruel despot, so too his minis- 
ter degenerated, under the influence of political and social 
fears, from a liberal and somewhat sceptical philosopher, to 
a bigoted persecutor. Horace Walpole, describing the portrait 
of Sir Thomas, painted by Holbein in 1527, writes: "It is 
Sir Thomas More in the rigour of his sense, not in the 
sweetness of his pleasantry. Here is rather that single, cruel 
judge, whom one knows not how to hate, and who, in the 
vigour of abilities, of knowledge and good humour, persecuted 
others in defence of superstitions that he himself had exposed ; 
and who, capable of disdaining life at the price of his sincerity, 
yet thought that God was to be served by promoting an 
imposture ; who triumphed over Henry and death, and sunk 
to be an accomplice, at least the dupe, of the Holy Maid of 
Kent ! " * 

There is no doubt much coxcombry in all this balanced 
antithesis, yet it expresses the perplexity which the apparent 
contrast between the earlier and later life of More has excited 
in deeper minds than Walpole's. The perplexity, however, is 

* Anecdotes of Painting, vol. i. 70 (ed. Wornum). 


self-created by those who, turning over the pages of the 
Utopia or the Praise of Folly, dream of a sceptical, rational- 
istic, Utopian More ; and contrast him with the More who 
has depicted himself in his epitaph as the sworn enemy of 
malefactors and heretics — words most true, yet easily mis- 
understood at the present day. Postponing for future con- 
sideration the charge of persecution, I will here confine my 
remarks to his Latin controversial writings, and especially to 
the book against Luther. Tindale hinted at some such 
contrast as that described above, and Sir Thomas replied as 
follows : " Of Erasmus' book on the Praise of Folly, Tindale 
saith, that if it were in English every man should then well 
see that I was then far otherwise minded than I now write. 
If this be true, then the more cause have I to thank God of 
amendment. But surely this is not true ; for, God be thanked, 
I never had that mind in myself to have holy saints' images or 
their holy relics out of reverence. Nor if there were any such 
thing in Moria^ that thing could not yet make any man see 
that I were myself of that mind, the book being made by 
another man, though he were ' my darling ' never so dear. 
Howbeit, that book of Moria doth indeed but jest upon the 
abuses of such things, after the manner of the disours* part in a 
play, and yet not so far neither by a great deal as the 'Messenger' 
doth in my Dialogue^ which I have yet suffered to stand still 
in my Dialogue^ and that rather yet by the counsel of other 
men than myself." t 

Nor did Erasmus ever hint that any revolution had taken 
place in the mind of his candid, his darling More, any other- 
wise than he admits a change in his own view of things. The 
world had changed, and new opponents had arisen, who 
aroused new feelings and required a new language ; but 
neither More nor Erasmus defended what they had before 
ridiculed, nor attacked what they had before encouraged. 

* Disour, i.e., clown, jester. f English Works, p. 422. 


More, it is said, was in his early days a zealous reformer ; 
in his later days he was a conservative and resisted the 
reformers. But Reform is an ambiguous word. More had 
lamented the prevalence of evil works among professing 
Catholics. It surely does not follow that he should have 
welcomed the reform of Luther, whose principal outcry was 
against the importance attached by Catholics to good \\ox\i'i* 
More declared war, as Pace tells us, against certain scholastic 
theologians, who affirmed too dogmatically things that were 
obscure and altogether outside the faith. Was he, on that 
account, to accept Luther contradicting the first principles of 
Catholic faith ? 

But if the consistency of More is admitted, what is to be 
said on the charge of asperity and scurrility brought against 
his controversial writings ? This question cannot be shirked 
by a biographer of More. To begin with the accusation of 
scurrility. Of More's book against Luther, published in 1523, 
Bishop Atterbury has said : " It is throughout nothing but 
downright ribaldry, without a grain of reasoning to support it; 
so that it gave the author no other reputation but that of 
having the best knack of any man in Europe at calling bad 
names in good Latin ".f It is difficult to suppose that 
Atterbury had ever read the book of which he could thus 
write. It is replete with keen irony and powerful reasoning, 
as well as earnest and touching exhortation. That it is a 
pleasant book to read I do not contend, nor that it is free 
from language that is rude and nasty. But whether the 
language deserves the name of ribaldry depends on the 

* " Luther's most earnest remonstrances were directed not against 
bad but against good works, and the stress laid upon them by the 
advocates of the old religion. If that religion had been in its practice 
so generally corrupt as it is represented to have been by modern writers, 
such denuntiations were idle " (Dr. Brewer, Introduction to Letters and 
Papers, p. 228). Tindale used to call zeal for good works " popeholiness ". 

t Atterbury's Epistolary Correspondence, etc., iii. 452. 



question whether, when Shakespeare's Ajax boxes the ears 
of Thersites and calls him a "whoreson cur," he thereby 
places himself on a level with Thersites, pouring out his foul 
venom on Agamemnon, Achilles, and all the princes of the 
army. Sir Thomas More complains that he could not clean 
the mouth of Luther without befouling his own fingers. 

But let us understand the facts. In 1520, Luther published 
his treatise called the Babylonian Captivity in which he 
finally broke with the Church, railed at the Pope, and called 
on the world to embrace an entirely new religion, under the 
name of genuine Christianity. In 152 1, Henry printed his 
book called Defence of the Seven Sacraments. Luther replied 
in a treatise so scurrilous, that it has probably no parallel 
in literature. Certainly such language had never before been 
addressed to a king or prince. It cannot be said that Henry 
had drawn this upon his own head. He had not attacked 
Luther, but stepped in as the Church's champion, to ward off 
the blows Luther was aiming at her. On the whole his defence 
is dignified, and he uses language no stronger than had been 
used in all ages, by saints and doctors, against inventors of 
novelties and disturbers of unity. In this book of Henry's 
More had no other share than that, after it was written, he had 
arranged the index.* But, against his will, he was drawn 
into the controversy. It was not possible for the king to reply 
to an attack such as Luther's. When Luther, a few years later, 
wrote an insincere apology for his virulence, Henry answered as 
it became him ; but even had he wished it, his advisers could 

* The words of Sir Thomas are that "after it was finished, by His 
Grace's appointment, and consent of the makers of the same, he was only 
a sorter out and placer of the principal matters therein contained " 
{Life of Roper, p. 25). Mr. Bruce in the ArchcBol. (xxiii. 67) has a 
dissertation on the authorship of the Assertio Septcin Sacramentorum. 
He understands the words of Sir Thomas as I have taken them. I do not 
enter further into this matter, since I have published an essay on the 
subject, called " Defender of the Faith ". (Catholic Truth Society.) 


not have allowed him in 1523 to carry on a war of words with 
a foul-mouthed German boor. Some of his subjects undertook 
to avenge the " Defender of the Faith ". Fisher, Bishop of 
Rochester, weighed as a theologian the original contentions of 
Luther, the English king's replies, and Luther's scornful 
reiterations. The king, however, in all probability, himself 
suggested to More that his wit would be well employed in 
chastising the insolent friar. This I gather from More's own 
words. Apologising for certain expressions, he says: "I doubt 
not, good reader, that your fairness will pardon me that in this 
book you read so often what causes you shame. Nothing 
could have been more painful to me than to be forced to speak 
foul words to pure ears. But there was no help for it, unless 
I left Luther's scurrilous book utterly untouched, which is a 
thing I most earnestly desired. ^^ 

It does not follow that, because More engaged in the con- 
troversy against his inclination, his method of conducting it was 
contrary to his conscience or his better judgment. He saw 
that Luther deserved to be trounced ; he merely regretted that 
the task had been committed to him. He pleaded for leave to 
wear a mask while performing the unpleasant duty, and took 
the name of William Ross, an Englishman, supposed to be on 
a visit to Italy. His book is not a treatise on Lutheranism, for 
Lutheranism as a system had not yet been enunciated, and was 
still incomplete in the brain of its author. He refutes indeed 
both the denials and the assertions of Luther as they occur, 
but it is with Luther himself and Luther's language to Henry 
that he is dealing. The Wittenburg doctor, in the midst of his 
paroxysms of fury and hurling of nicknames, still wished to Ije 
taken for a prophet, zealous for his master's honour ; and 
More's object was to turn into utter ridicule this pretension, by 
showing that he was simply an enraged and fanatical buffoon.* 

* If such a designation seems too strong, let me cull a few specimens 
of hislanguage. The kingis " rex infelix, stolidissimus, delirus,nugigerulus, 
sceleratissimus, sacrilegus ; latro, asinus, porcus, truncus, antichristus, 


He did not consider that his own book was to have any per- 
manent value. He therefore thus concluded it: " I confess 
that my book is not such a one as the world must needs read ; 
but, on the other hand, I trust it is one that need not be despised 
by anyone who has condescended to read Luther's follies. As for 
those who have simply disdained his ranting {ncenias) there is 
no need for them, nor do I wish them, to waste their time over 
my book." 

Of " reasoning," though Dr. Atterbury could not find " a 
grain," there was far more than w^as necessary to overthrow any 
arguments advanced by Martin Luther. After a specimen or 
two of More's lighter style of controversy, I will give a few 
passages which will explain the earnest and determined opposi- 
tion to the new opinions, in which he spent the rest of his life. 
His method is to give Luther's words in full, and after each 
paragraph to make a commentary. 

Words of Luther. — "Where are you, my Lord Henry? 
Bring forth your fine book against Luther. What is it that 
your Lordship is defending — the seven sacraments } By whose 
teaching — that of God, or of men ? Let then your Thomistical 
Lordship hear the judgment, not of Luther, but of Him before 
whom the poles of the earth tremble, ' In vain do they worship 
Me, teaching doctrines and commandments of men '." {Matt, 
XV. 9)." 

M'^ords of More. — " Reader, did you ever see a blind man 
in a rage, and eager to revenge himself with his fists ? To 
know where to hit out, he gets his adversary to speak, and 
strikes where he thinks the sound comes from, but hits nothing, 
since the speaker steps back. Such is Luther, but far more 

stultitiae monstrum, rex mendacii ; damnabilis putredo, feces latrinaj ; 
vecors et indoctissima papistic! corporis belua ; scurra levissimus ; insul- 
sissimus Thomlsta, stropha Thomistica; porcus Thomista," etc., etc. 
Sir Thomas More's contention is : " Quis non rideat nebulonem miserrimum 
tarn furiosas efflantem glorias, quasi sederet in Christi pectore, cum 
clausus jaceat in culo diaboli ? Inde crepat ac buccinat" (Lib. i. cap. 7). 


ridiculous ; for when the king answers him on his right hand, 
he strikes out towards the left. See him with his blind eyes 
standing ready to give his blow. ' Where are you, Lord Henry ? ' 
he cries. ' Here I am, close by you.' ' Come nearer, bring 
out your pretty book against Luther.' ' Here it is.' ' Nearer 
still, what is it your lordship defends — the seven sacraments ? ' 
' Certainly.' ' A little nearer. By what teaching — that of God 
or of man ? ' 'Of God.' Now he is going to strike ; mark 
with what precision. ' Listen,' he says, ' your highness : In 
vain do they worship Me with the doctrines of men ' ! and then 
he bursts out laughing and cannot contain himself for joy, at 
the crushing blow he has inflicted on his opponent." * 

Luther had boldly declared that his only foundation was the 
written word of God, that he might get rid of all ecclesiastical 
tradition and all exercise of ecclesiastical authority. But the 
written word of God would not have served his purpose unless 
it were free to him to interpret it in a new sense by his own 
private judgment. We may listen to a specimen of his reason- 
ing and of More's reply : — 

Words of Luther. — " It is written, ' All things are yours, 
whether Apollo or Cephas or Paul, and you are Christ's' (i Cor. 
iii. 22). If we are Christ's only, who is this stupid king, who 
strives with his lies to make us the Pope's ? We are not the 
Pope's, but the Pope is ours. It is ours, not to be judged by 
the Pope, but to judge him. ' For the spiritual man is judged 
by none, but he judges all men ' {pvuies) (i Cor. ii. 15). If it 
is true that all things are yours, even the Pope, how much more 
that dirt and disgrace of men, the Thomists and Henricians ? " 

Words of More. — " May I die if phrenzy itself is so phrene- 
tical, or madness itself so mad, as this waggish head of Luther's. 
The Pope is ours, he says ; therefore it is ours to judge him, not 
to be judged by him. By the same reasoning : The physician 
is ours, therefore it is ours to cure him, not to be cured by him ; 

* Lib. i. cap. 12. 


and the schoolmaster belongs to the scholars, therefore it be- 
longs to them to teach him, and not to learn from him ! 

" It is ours, he says, not to be judged by the Pope, but to 
judge him. What does he mean by ' ours ' ? Does he mean 
' of the whole ' collectively, or ' of each one ' in particular ? If 
he means ' of the whole,' he advances nothing for himself, since 
the whole of the Church is for the Pope, and against Luther. 
And in the matter of the sacraments still less, since people and 
Pope, both present and past, are in favour of the sacraments, 
and against Luther. But if it belongs to each one to judge the 
Pope and the sacraments, and the true sense of Scripture — 
since, among so many judges, the judgment of Luther alone is 
on one side— by what prerogative must his vote outweigh the 
votes of all the rest ? Because, he says, the spiritual man 
judges all, and he is judged by none ; and because ' all things 
are yours, even the Pope '. Reader, do you not seem to be 
listening to raving ? Luther alone is spiritual ; the Pope 
alone is unspiritual ; so Luther must judge all and be judged by 
none, and the Pope must judge none, and be judged by all ! 
And this raver does not see that, while he is raving against the 
Pope, he is raving also against Peter and Paul. For when the 
Apostle said ' all things are yours,' he did not add ' the Pope,' 
but Apollo, Cephas, and Paul. Hence Luther must reason 
consistently : We are not Peter's or Paul's, but Peter and Paul 
are ours ; therefore it is ours to judge Peter and Paul, and not 
to be judged by them. Nay, not so much ours as ' mine,' for 
it is the prerogative of the spiritual man to judge and not be 
judged. Hence the spiritual man, Luther, shall judge, not 
Thomists and Henricians only, but Peter and Paul and the rest 
of the Apostles. Come now, reader, deny if you can that one 
Minerva was born from the head of Jupiter, when you see the 
one head of Luther give birth to so many phrensies." * 

Words of Lut/ie?'. — "Everyone at his own risk believes truly 

* Lib. i. cap. 14. 


or falsely ; therefore everyone must take care for himself that 
he believes aright, so that common sense and the necessity of 
salvation prove that the judgment regarding doctrine is neces- 
sarily in the hearer. Otherwise to no purpose is it said : ' Prove 
all things, hold fast that which is good '." 

JVords of More. — "So then, because every one must take 
care to believe aright, he must have no care for Pope or 
councils, or church or holy fathers, or the people, or Peter or 
Paul, but he must himself judge boldly about everything; and 
because he believes at his own risk, therefore without any risk 
he may believe in himself against the whole world, according 
to that advice of the Wise Man, ' Son, rely not on thy own 
prudence, and be not wise in thine own eyes '." * 

In many places of this book Sir Thomas foretold the conse- 
quences to which this method of private illumination would 
lead, not only in the interpretation of Scripture, but in the ac- 
ceptance or rejection of Scripture itself. His previsions have 
been justified, though slowly, in the rationalism and universal 
uncertainty in religious matters that prevails at the present day. 
But quite independently of what would come by a sure process 
of dissolution, contrary to the will or expectation of the original 
innovators. Sir Thomas saw quite enough in the immediate 
results of Luther's revolt to fill his soul with horror, whether as 
a Christian or a statesman. The following passage is from the 
peroration of his answer to Luther :— 

" Reader, you will easily know the tree from its fruit. Recall 
to your memory what you have read, and you will see that, 
whatever the leaders of the Church, from the very cradle of 
Christianity, worshipped as most holy, is held by these Lutherans 
in the utmost contempt. What was celebrated with such venera- 
tion as the most holy sacrifice of the Mass ? and what has been 
more befouled and trampled on by these swine ? As regards 
prayer, not only have they abolished the liturgy of the fixed 

* Lib. ii. cap. 22. 


hours, but all the prayers which, from the very beginning, the 
Church has been accustomed to chant for the dead. Who will 
not abominate such cruelty ? Even if it were altogether doubt- 
ful (as they falsely contend) whether the prayers of the living 
can profit the dead, yet what harm would there be to exercise 
our affections of piety, and to risk our prayers, since, even if we 
were doubtful of their efficacy, we are certain they cannot be 
injurious ? What was reverenced more religiously than fasting, 
or observed so exactly as Lent ? Yet now these wretches, 
' made perfect in the Spirit,' in order not to distinguish day 
from day, give up every day to bacchanalian festivities. In 
how great esteem was continence held, how strictly was con- 
jugal chastity prescribed, how approved was the chastity of 
widows, how assiduously and emphatically was virginity ex- 
tolled, and all this from the teaching of Christ Himself. But 
now this antichrist has destroyed almost everything that bears 
the name of chastity. Priests, monks, virgins once dedicated 
to God, now at the instigation of the devil, in this ' church of 
the malignant,' under the name of lawful marriage, with a great 
pomp of attendant demons, celebrate their hateful nuptials ; 
and, while none but evil men violate a pact made with a fellow- 
man, these fear not to violate a pact made with God, safe in 
the indulgence granted by Luther, who is already beginning to 
establish polygamy." He goes on to quote some sayings of 
Luther about marriage, and to relate his rage against the cultus 
of the saints and their images, Our Blessed Lady, and the 
Crucifix, at the very time that he was proud that his own portrait 
was being everywhere carried about with ludicrous veneration. 
*' These, then," he exclaims, " are the spiritual fruits of this sect, this 
is the point which Luther's ' piety ' has already reached. And all 
the crimes which flow from this heresy are supported and justi- 
fied by one great impiety, since they contend that they are 
compelled to be what they are by the certain and predestined 
will of God. 

" O illustrious Germany, can you doubt, can you doubt, when 


they sow such spiritual things, what kind of corporal things 
they will reap? Indeed the thistles, as I hear, are already 
showing an ugly crop, and God is beginning to make known 
how He regards that sect, when He does not permit the priests 
who marry to take other wives than public prostitutes. In 
former days He forbade His priests to be joined in lawful 
matrimony to any but the purest virgins ;* and now He does 
not suffer these incestuous and villainous nuptials to be 
contracted except with the foulest outcasts. And these bride- 
grooms, first sunk deep in infamy, and then ruined with 
disease and want, and giving themselves up to robbery, His 
justice is at last punishing with public executions. Would 
that His anger might stop short in the punishment of these 
dregs of men ; but unless it is propitiated it will go farther. 
For many of the princes see, not without pleasure, the apostasy 
of the clergy, gaping as they do after the possessions of the 
apostates, which they hope to seize as derelict. And they 
rejoice to see obedience withdrawn from the Sovereign Pontiff, 
conceiving then the hope that they may dispose of everything, 
and may divide and dissipate it among themselves at home. 
On the other hand, they need not doubt, but that the people 
in their turn will throw off the yoke of the princes, and deprive 
them of their possessions. And when they shall come to do 
this, drunk with the blood of the princes, and exulting in the 
slaughter of the nobles, they will not submit even to plebeian 
governors ; but following the dogma of Luther [about Chris- 
tian liberty], and trampling the law under foot, then, at last 
without government and without law, without rein and without 
understanding, they will turn their hands against each other, 
and, like the earth-born brothers of old, will jjerish in mutual 
conflict. I beg of Christ that I may be a false prophet." 

This prevision of evil was both written and printed two years 
before the dreadful war of the peasants proved that More was 

* Levit. xxi. 13. 


no false prophet. What he thought of that calamity, and 
especially what he thought of Luther's conduct and writings, 
both before and during it, can be seen from the following 
extract from a Latin letter written about 1526 : * " God does 
indeed sometimes, by means of such followers of the devil, 
either try the patience of the good members of His Church, 
or chastise the sins of Christians ; yet He is faithful, and with 
the temptation will provide an issue, and at last will wipe every 
tear from the eyes of those whom He has purified. But you, 
who are the impious and bloodthirsty slaughterers of the 
faithful, will by His anger be reduced to cinders, and driven 
away like dust from the face of the earth. Of this vengeance 
He has just given a fearful example, when those most wretched 
and villainous peasants, seduced by your teaching, after having 
destroyed so many monasteries, and for a time wandered 
hither and thither, giving themselves up to murder and plunder 
with impunity, just when they thought they had attained un- 
restrained and unrestrainable licence for every crime — behold 
the God of Majesty spoke in thunder, and sudden destruction 
came upon them. More than seventy thousand perished by 
the sword, and those who remained were reduced to cruel 

"And are you not in this matter ashamed of your great 
master, Luther, first the most wicked leader, and then the 
most villainous deserter ; who after arousing, arming, and 
exciting the peasants to every kind of crime, when he saw 
that fortune threatened them with ruin, by his truculent 

* Epistola contra Pomcranum (Lovanii, 1568). This letter is not 
contained in More's collected works. It was published by John Fowler, 
an English exile, from More's autograph, which he had probably obtained 
from John Harris, More's secretary. In the Preface More says that some 
one placed in his hand a letter from John Pomeranus (Bugenhagen), a 
German Lutheran, to "the faithful in England". Rewrote his reply 
evidently with the view of publication, but may have laid it aside, 
preferring his English controversy with Tindall, Frith and Fish. 


writings, betrayed and denounced them, and gave them up 
to be torn to pieces by the nobles : and by his shameful 
flatteries tried to smother the odium that was felt against 
himself in the blood of the poor wretches, of whose rebellion 
and slaughter he was the sole cause ? Who that has a drop 
of human blood in his breast would not prefer to die ten 
times over, than to prolong a life hateful to (iod and man by 
such foul and cruel flattery ? " 

One other passage must be quoted from the first answer to 
Luther of 1523, described by Atterbury as "downright ribaldry, 
without a grain of reason ". In it we have Sir Thomas More's 
declaration of allegiance to the Sovereign Pontiff: — 

" As regards the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, the Bishop 
of Rochester has made the matter so clear from the Gospels, 
the Acts of the Aposdes, and from the whole of the Old 
Testament, and from the consent of all the holy fathers, not of 
the Latins only, but of the Greeks also (of whose opposition 
Luther is wont to boast), and from the definition of a General 
Council, in which the Armenians and Greeks, who at that time 
had been most obstinately resisting, were overcome, and 
acknowledged themselves overcome, that it would be utterly 
superfluous for me to write again on the subject. 

" I am moved to obedience to that See not only by what 
learned and holy men have written, but by this fact especially, 
that we shall find, that on the one hand every enemy of the 
Christian faith makes war on that See, and that, on the other 
hand, no one has ever declared himself an enemy of that See 
who has not also shortly after shown most evidently that he was 
the enemy of the Christian religion. 

"Another thing that moves me is this, that if, after Luther's 
manner, the vices of men are to be imputed to the offices they 
hold, not only the papacy will fall, but royalty, and dictator- 
ship, and consulate, and every other kind of magistracy, and 
the people will be without rulers, without law, and without 
order. Should such a thing ever come to pass, as it seems 


indeed imminent in some parts of Germany, they will then feel 
to their own great loss how much better it is for men to have 
bad rulers than no rulers at all. Most assuredly as regards the 
Pope, God, who set him over His Church, knows how great an 
evil it would be to be without one, and I do not think it desir- 
able that Christendom should learn it by experience. It is far 
more to be wished that God may raise up such Popes as befit 
the Christian cause and the dignity of the Apostolic office : 
men who, despising riches and honour, will care only for 
heaven, will promote piety in the people, will bring about peace, 
and exercise the authority they have received from God against 
the ' satraps and mighty hunters of the world,' excommunicating 
and giving over to Satan both those who invade the territories 
of others and those who oppress their own. With one or two 
such Popes the Christian world would soon perceive how much 
preferable it is that the papacy should be reformed than abro- 
gated. And I doubt not that long ago Christ would have 
looked down on the pastor of His flock if the Christian people 
had chosen rather to pray for the welfare of their Father than 
to persecute him, and to hide the shame of their Father than 
to laugh at it. 

" But be sure, Luther, of this : God will not forsake His own 
vicar. He will one day cast His eyes of mercy on him ; nay, 
He is perhaps now doing it, in allowing a most wicked son to 
scourge so painfully his father. You are nothing else, Luther, 
but the scourge of God, to the great gain of that See, and to 
your own great loss. Ciod will act as a kind mother does, who, 
when she has chastised her child, wipes away his tears, and, to 
appease him, throws the rod into the fire." 

What Sir Thomas More here writes of the coercitive power 
of the Sovereign Pontiff, and the desirability of its vigorous 
exercise, will probably surprise some readers, as the words of 
an English statesman writing under the eye and in defence of 
an English king, and that king Henry VHL But it was in strict 
conformity with the international law of Europe. 


The following clause was introduced, in 15 15, into the com- 
mission appointing English ambassadors to treat of peace, etc. : 
"To take any oath upon our soul, and to do this personally on 
the Holy Gospels. Also, to obtain an Apostolic bull or rescript 
in due form, in which all the contents of such treaty will be 
confirmed by the authority of the Holy See, with pains and 
censures against ourselves and our heirs, and the sentence of 
interdict against our kingdom and dominions, if and in so far as 
we do and consent to the doing of anything contrary to the 
aforesaid treaty or any part of it, renouncing at the same time 
all exceptions of fact or law, even such as require special men- 
tion, for us and in our name, for the strengthening of such 

This clause recognised the Pope as the guardian of Christen- 
dom, and in 1523 Henry had no wish to quarrel with its letter 
or its spirit. If in 1534 his views had changed, we must re- 
member that, according to the same Horace Walpole, who 
wrote so brilliantly about More : — 

From Catharine's wrongs a nation's bliss was spread, 
And Luther's light from Henry's lawless bed. 

Henry in his reply to the apology of Luther, in which the 
heresiarch affected to believe that the book on the sacraments 
was not the king's, but the work of some of his ecclesiastics, 
such as Wolsey or Lee, had plainly declared the book to be his 
own, yet at a later period, when it rose up to condemn him, he 
had the meanness to insinuate, what he dared not assert, that 
Luther's contention was true ; and he had Luther's letter trans- 
lated into English and spread abroad. t 

His meanness and effrontery went even further than this. 
He charged some members of his Council to reproach Sir 
Thomas More that "he, by subtle sinister slights most un- 
naturally procuring and provoking him to set forth a book of 
the assertion of the seven sacraments, and maintenance of the 

* Rymer, xiii. 496, 500. An. 15 15. 

+ Letter of Chapuys (4th Feb., 1534). Letters and Papers, vii. 152. 


Pope's authority, had caused him, to his dishonour throughout 
all Christendom, to put a sword in the Pope's hand to fight 
against himself". Sir Thomas's answer, which will be given in 
full in its proper place, was an utter denial that he had in any 
way whatever suggested the king's book. * No allusion seems 
to have been made to his defence of it against Luther. In his 
answer to Luther's apology in 1525 the king had referred to it 
as follows : " I see that, both in England and other places, 
some have replied to what you wrote against me. Some have 
treated you according to your deserts, and handled you after 
your own fashion, except that they have given reasons as well as 
insults, while you give only the latter." Ingratitude is the most 
conspicuous feature of the later life of Henry VIII. Scarce 
one of all those who laboured for him, whether nobly or ig- 
nol)ly, met any other return than insults and cruelty, f 

* Roper's Life of More, n. 25. 

t In this chapter I have taken for granted that the book of Gulielmus 
Rosseus is by More. The Latin style, the wit, and parallel passages in 
More's English works make this quite certain, nor have I found it any- 
where questioned. Stapleton, however, tells us that during More's life- 
time no one suspected him to be the author (cap. 6). More kept his 
secret by sometimes referring to Ross. Thus in his English work against 
Tindale, written in 1532, he says : " I doubt not but that Tindale hath 
read both Rosseus and Luther in those places, and seeth his master made 
a fool therein already " (p. 490). And again : " This reason was by one 
Rosseus proved so foolish and so unreasonable, that Tindale and Barns 
be both ashamed thereof" (p. 817). So also p. 513: "Luther was in 
that point by Rosseus shamefully soused in the mire". Stapleton does 
not tell us when the truth was discovered, nor how. There is no allusion 
to the book against Luther in Roper's notes, but its authorship was known 
to Harpsfield. Stapleton (cap. 4) says that William Ross was an English- 
man, who had died in Italy just before More published his book. The 
author of the Life of More printed by Wordsworth says he was a well- 
known wild companion. Had either of these writers authority for these 
statements ? I may add that if More did not acknowledge the work of 
Ross to be his own, Fisher in his book against CEcolampadius in 1526 
refers to More's having written against Luther, and his words can only 
refer to this work (Pref. ad Lib. ii.). 



IT is recorded in every English history how Cardinal Wolsey 
by his failure to secure the royal divorce lost the favour of 
the king whom he had served betterthan his God ; and how 
on 19th October, 1529, the great seal of his chancellorship was 
taken from him. The Bishop of Bayonne, the French 
ambassador in England, wrote on 22nd October : " The Duke 
of Norfolk is made head of the Council ; in his absence the 
Duke of Suffolk ; over all is Mademoiselle Anne. It is not 
yet known who will have the seal. I think no priest will touch 
it, and that in this parliament the clergy will have terrible 
alarms." Wolsey is said to have declared that no man was so 
fit for the office of Lord High Chancellor as Sir Thomas 
!More ;* but there is no likelihood that he was consulted on 
the appointment, and the remark was probably made when the 
name of his successor was announced to him. The imperial 
envoy, Eustace Chapuys, who had only recently arrived in 
England, wrote to Charles V. on 25th October : " The 
chancellor's seal has remained in the hands of the Duke of 
Norfolk till this morning, when it was transferred to Sir Thomas 
More. Everyone is delighted at his promotion, because 
he is an upright and learned man, and a good servant of the 
Queen. "t From the official act we learn that on Monday, 
the 25th October, at East Greenwich, the seal was delivered 

♦ Erasmus. £/>. 426, in App. Harpsfield and Stapleton. 
t Letters and Papers, iv. 6026. 


by the king to Sir Thomas More, in the presence of Sir 
Christopher Hales, attorney general, in the king's privy 
chamber, and on the next day, 26th October, More took his 
oath as chancellor in the great hall at Westminster, in the 
presence of the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and a large 
number of the nobility and prelates.* Roper remembered 
five-and-twenty years later the great eulogy passed on Sir 
Thomas by the Duke of Norfolk, speaking in the king's name, 
and especially the way in which he had acquitted himself in his 
late embassy at Cambrai ; and how Sir Thomas in reply 
had alluded to his predecessor : " Considering how wise and 
honourable a prelate had lately before taken so great a fall,t 
he had no cause to rejoice in his new dignity. And as the 
Dukes had charged him, on the king's behalf, uprightly to 
administer justice without corruption or partiality, so did he 
likewise charge them if they saw him at any time in anything to 
digress from his duty, even as they would discharge their own 
duty and fidelity to God and the king, so should they not fail 
to disclose it to His Grace, who otherwise might have just 
occasion to lay his fault wholly to their charge.";}: Of course 
More's old friend Erasmus was delighted to hear of his elevation, 
though he wrote to Mountjoy, to Tunstall and to Pace, almost 
in the same words : "I do not at all congratulate More, nor 

*Ib., 6025. 

t Lewis, in his edition of Roper, has " fault," but Harpsfield's MS. has 
" fall ". Wolsey had been prosecuted by the order of Henry in the King's 
Bench, and had pleaded guilty. The charge was that he had kept his 
legatine court, contrary to the statute of Premunire. 

X Stapleton has amplified Roper's account by composing two long and 
eloquent speeches, one for the duke and one for Sir Thomas. These 
have been well translated by Cresacre More. I omit them, as they are 
mere exercises in rhetoric. Stapleton makes More say of Wolsey : accrbo 
casu dcjcctus occubuit inglorins. The word occubuit may perhaps 
mean "fell"; Cresacre translates it "died"; but Wolsey survived 
another year after More's speech. Sir James Mackintosh has given the 
speeches in full without suspecting their authenticity. 


literature ; but I do indeed congratulate England, for a better 
or holier judge could not have been appointed ".* 

Cardinal Pole writes that the object of the king was to win 
over, or in plain words, to bribe More by this dignity, to side 
with him in what was called his "great matter," his divorce from 
Queen Catharine, and marriage with x\nne Boleyn.f Roper 
confirms this, adding that the king was led into this hope by 
Dr. Stokesly, whom he had made Bishop of London. We 
shall see that the king and his bishop both underrated More's 
integrity. It has surprised many, that More, who knew this 
design, and the difficult and intricate path on which he was 
entering, should have accepted the chancellorship. The truth 
would seem to be, that a subject had no choice as to accepting 
or rejecting an office pressed upon him by Henry VIII. The 
danger to life and fortune might be as great in obstinately 
refusing to accept the office, as in resisting the king's will in its 
execution ; while he might hope that the king would soon be 
wearied of him and allow him to resign. As to the danger to 
his own conscience, More had taken care to clear his way 
before him regarding the only matter which then presented a 
difficulty, that of the divorce. 

With respect to this unhappy question, the source of so 
many woes, there will be no need to enter into any details in 
this memoir. Its general history will be sufficiently familiar to 
the reader. Sir Thomas More, in a letter written to Cromwell 
on 5th March, 1534, drew up a full and minute account of his 
own course of action with regard to the king's divorce, both 
before, during, and after his chancellorship. The substance is 
as follows : Before going beyond sea with Wolsey, in July, 1527, 
he had heard of the difficulties that had been started concerning 
the impediment of affinity, but he then thought that the 

* Epist. Ernsm. 1034. 28th March, 1530(001 1529). 
t Certe ipse rerum exitus satis declarat ilium hac de causa cancellarium 
esse factum, quo hac quasi mercede corruptus se eo trahi pateretur. 



"hopes" and "comfort" of the king and his advisers were 
founded on supposed flaws in the bull of dispensation. On 
his return in September he was, therefore, surprised when, on 
his visiting the king at Hampton Court, while they were walking 
in the gallery. His Highness suddenly told him that he had 
found that his marriage was in such way contrary to Divine law, 
"that it could in no wise by the Church be dispensable". The 
king laid the Bible open before him, read him the words of 
Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and asked his opinion. Not 
thinking that his opinion on such a subject could have much 
weight for or against, he gave it, in obedience to the command. 
His Highness accepted benignly his sudden unadvised answer 
(which was apparently contrary to his own view), and com- 
manded him to confer with his almoner, Dr. Fox, and to read 
with him a book that was then in preparation. This book was 
laid before a number of learned men at Hampton Court, and, 
after some modifications, it was again read at York Place in the 
cardinal's chamber, and the bishops and doctors present agreed 
that the king had reasons sufficient to conceive scruples about 
his marriage, and " to procure to have his doubt decided by 
judgment of the Church ". While the cause was before the 
legates, Sir Thomas held himself entirely aloof, "for the matter 
was in hand by an ordinary process of the spiritual law, whereof 
he could little skill ". Besides, while the legates were still 
sitting, he was sent on an embassy to Cambrai. On his return, 
having been appointed chancellor, the king again moved him 
to consider the matter. Should he be able to take the king's 
point of view, His Majesty would gladly use him among other 
of his counsellors in that matter. He would, however, in no 
way force his conscience ; "he must first look to God, and after 
God to the king". He, therefore, studied the matter more 
attentively, taking for his instructors or advisers those whom the 
king selected : the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (Warham 
and Lee), the almoner, Dr. Fox, and Dr. Nicholas De Burgo, 
an Italian friar. Though he greatly desired to do the king all 


the service in his power, yet, as he could not bring his mind to 
the king's view, he was left " free and used in other business," 
retaining the royal favour. Thenceforward he meddled no 
more in the matter, refused to read any books on the side he 
had himself embraced, and finding one by chance in his study, 
that had been written against the divorce by Dr. Clark, Bishop 
of Bath, he offered to send it back, but was told to burn it, 
and did so. Since the king's second marriage, he had in no 
way discussed it with any, but had prayed and would continue 
to pray for the king, for the noble lady who had been anointed 
queen (Anne Boleyn), and their noble issue "long to live and 
well, in such way as may be to the pleasure of God, honour 
and surety to themselves, wealth, peace, and profit to the 
realm ". 

This account of the king's designs upon More, and how he 
contrived to baffle them, has led us beyond the period of his 
chancellorship. We must now^ return to the time of his ap- 
pointment. This is not the place, nor is the present writer a 
fit person, to explain the nature and growth of the office of 
Lord High Chancellor of England. A word or two, however, 
may be allowed, in order to prevent confusion, especially in 
the minds of foreign readers of this memoir.* The word 
" chancellor," or " cancellarius," is ambiguous. It has been 
used to indicate a doorkeeper in a court of law, a law clerk, a 
diocesan official, a dignitary in a cathedral church, the presi- 
dent of a university, as well as in later times a great judge in 
a court of equity and minister of state. The chancellor of 
the kings of England was formerly a chaplain and secretary 
to the king. As spiritual adviser he was called the keeper of 
the royal conscience. As chief secretary he prepared royal 
mandates, grants and charters, and affixed the royal seal. 
Hence he became (and still remains) keeper of the great 

* The following account is derived from Lord Campbell's Introduc- 
tion, Bohn's Cyclopcedia of Political Knowledge, and similar sources. 


seal. The king, as the fountain of justice, appointed judges 
of the various courts, but when plaintiffs appealed to the king 
for justice, his secretary directed the royal writs to the judges 
to try the case. 

So far, the functions of the chancellor were only ministerial. 
His jurisdiction as judge originated in the discretionary powers 
of the king, whose special interference was frequently sought, 
either against the decisions of his courts of law, or in matters 
which were not cognisable by the ordinary courts, or lastly, in 
cases where powerful misdoers set ordinary jurisdiction at 
defiance. Hence arose the practice of Equity as distinguished 
from the Common as well as the Statute Law ; and as the 
chancellor, from his skill and experience, was naturally a chief 
adviser of the king and his Council, in course of time he came 
to hold (by royal appointment) a special court, in which the 
validity of royal grants was decided, and matters that regarded 
the possessions and transmission of land, as well as such other 
extraordinary cases as had formerly been referred to his 
opinion. His office, therefore, was twofold. His hanniper 
or hamper contained the royal writs, his petty bag the records 
of his decisions ; and at a later period, the two sides or func- 
tions of the court of chancery were thus designated. 

In the reigns of the early Anglo-Norman kings, the chan- 
cellor was but the sixth of the officials in the Aula Regia. 
The chief justiciar, constable, mareschal, steward, and cham- 
berlain preceded him. But already St. Thomas Beckett 
was reckoned secundus a rege, and had fifty clerks under 
him. In the time of the Tudors the chancellor's was 
the highest dignity after that of the monarch, and even 
when not a peer he was by his office prolocutor of the House 
of Lords. Erasmus, who, from his long residence in England, 
and familiarity with the two chancellors, Warham and Wolsey, 
was well acquainted with the subject, wrote to a German 
bishop that " in England the cancellarius is not, as under 
the empire, a mere secretary of State, but the supreme judge, 


and the right eye and right hand, so to say, of the king and 
Council. When he appears solemnly, a gold sceptre is carried 
at his right, at the top of which is an imperial crown, and at 
his left a book. By these emblems, the supreme power, 
under the king, and the knowledge of the laws, is symbolised."* 
The great seal, however, was the principal emblem as well as 
instrument of the chancellor's office. It had originally been 
carried in a bag of white leather ; in the time of Wolsey this 
was enclosed in another of crimson velvet, embroidered with 
the royal arms.t ' 

There was in the functions of the chancellor nothing of an 
ecclesiastical character, yet the office had been hitherto held, 
with very few exceptions, by ecclesiastics, and not unfrequently 
by great prelates, since they alone were fitted, by their superior 
education and knowledge of the Roman civil law as well as 
canon law, to form equitable judgments, and to fulfil the 
other requirements of the office. :|: The appointment of Sir 
Thomas More marked a great change in English public life. 
Thenceforward the chancellors, with very few exceptions, were 

The chancellor was also at that period president of the 
Court of Star Chamber. The name of this tribunal suggests 
memories of tyranny, but its action in the time of Henry VIII. 
was by no means oppressive. It rather provided security for 
the humbler members of the community against oppression by 
their richer or more powerful neighbours, according to the 
original purpose of its institution. Its authority was derived 

* Epist. Erasm., 426, in App. 

t During More's office this was renewed at a cost of £s 5s. 8d. 
(Letters and Papers, v. 445). 

X Sir James Mackintosh, in his Life 0/ More, p. 120. 

§ The last Catholic chancellor was Archbishop Heath, under Queen 
Mary. To this day Catholics are excluded from the office created by 
Catholic churchmen, and which has made English law what it now is. 
[Should this book ever reach a second edition I trust that this note will 
have to be cancelled.] 


from the Statutes 3 Henry YII., cap. i, and 21 Henry VHL, 
cap. 20. The first of these recites that the orderly government 
of the reahn was impeded by unlawful maintenances (on the 
part of noblemen), untrue demeaning of sheriffs in the returns 
and panels of juries, riots and unlawful assemblies, and it enacts 
that the chancellor, the treasurer, and certain other dignitaries 
should have power to summon persons so offending, and others, 
and to punish the misdoers just as if they had been convicted 
in the due course of law. The second statute enlarged the 
tribunal. There exist records of cases that came before this 
court, but not of the pleadings or judgments; nothing, therefore, 
that throws any light on Sir Thomas as judge.* 

His new dignities seem to have made little change in the 
simplicity of M ore's domestic life ; yet, as they brought with 
them the obligation of greater state in public, they were sup- 
ported by a greater salary. This however was insufficient for 
the expenses entailed, at least to a man of More's integrity, for 
the office seems to have given to some other chancellors abun- 
dant opportunities of enriching themselves. We find a warrant 
to the treasurer to allow Sir Thomas More, as chancellor, the 
yearly sum of ;£^i42 15s., and for his attendance in the Star 
Chamber ^£^200 a year ; also to the chief butler to allow 
him ^64 a year for the price of 1 2 tuns of wine, and to the 
keeper of the great wardrobe ^16 for wax.f If we add to- 
gether these sums, and multiply them by 12 for modern value, 
we find that his income was about ;£5ooo a year ; and accord- 
ing to Roper, his professional income before he entered on the 
royal service was nearly as much. He had, however, acquired 
certain estates and other emoluments which he still retained. :|: 

* See Appendix to 49th Report concerning Public Records, pp. 376-594. 

t Letters and Papers, iv. 6079. 

\ Lady More mentions that his lands forfeited at his attainder were 
worth £bo a year. I find mention also of a corrody in the monastery of 
Glastonbury [Letters and Papers, vii. 1601-32), and a pension from the 
Order of St. John of Jerusalem {lb., 1675). 


Though only in his fifty-second year, Sir Thomas More was 
what was then called an old man, such as he had depicted " the 
old sage father sitting in his chair " in the pageants which he 
had illustrated in his youth : — 

Old age am I, with locks thin and hoar, 
Of our short life the last and best part ; 
Wise and discreet ; the public weal, therefore, 
I help to rule to my labour and smart. 

AVhat has been recorded of his chancellorship, which lasted 
only about two years and a half, may be grouped under two 
heads. We will consider him first as a minister and next as a 

The famous parliament which lasted seven years, and which 
before its close pronounced an attainder upon Sir Thomas 
More, was solemnly opened by him as chancellor only a few 
days after he had received the seal. It met at Blackfriars* on 
Wednesday, 3rd November, 1529, and in his speech Sir 
Thomas declared " the cause of its assembly to be to reform 
such things as had been used or permitted by inadvertence, or 
by changes of time had become inexpedient ", The Parlia- 
mentary Rolls add that "of these errors and abuses he dis. 
coursed in a long and eloquent speech ".t 

The chroniclers put a very different speech into More's 
mouth. After showing that the king was the shepherd of his 
people, he added : " As you see that amongst a great flock of 
sheep some be rotten and faulty, which the good shepherd 
sendeth from the good sheep, so the great wether which is of 
late fallen (as you all know), so craftily, so scabbedly, yea and so 
untruly juggled with the king, that all men must needs guess 
and think that he thought in himself that he had no wit to 
perceive his crafty doing, or else he presumed that the king 
would not see nor know his fraudulent juggling and attempts. 

* An adjournment took, place to Westminster on account of the plague. 
f Rolls of Parliament, i. 151. 


But he was deceived, for His Grace's sight was so quick and 
penetrable that he saw him, yea and saw through him, both 
within and without, so that all thing to him was open, and ac- 
cording to his desert he hath had a gentle correction, which 
small punishment the king will not to be an example to other 
offenders." * 

I confess to a profound distrust of all such records of 
speeches in our sixteenth century annalists, unless when they 
are borne out by official documents, or are the reports of wit- 
nesses. In this case Hall's version of the chancellor's speech 
has no such confirmation, nor is it in harmony with the course 
of events. Wolsey had pleaded guilty, as regards the Statute of 
Premunire, for exercising the office of legate, and had sur- 
rendered his property to the king. Sir Thomas could, therefore, 
allude to his " fall " at the time of his own installation without 
injustice. But the references in this supposed speech at the 
opening of parliament can only be to the forty-four articles or 
charges of maladministration . Now these were not brought before 
parliament until ist December, and though Sir Thomas More's 
name, with the names of other members of the Council, was 
then placed upon the bill, he was not the man to prejudge 
Wolsey, and to call him by opprobrious names a month before a 
charge was formulated against him. There is also an evident 
anachronism in speaking of his " gentle correction " for his 
"fraudulent juggling". The only correction hitherto was for 
the public exercise of his legatine powers.f 

* Hall, followed verbatim by Grafton and HoHnshed. 

+ The bill of attainder was either withdrawn or rejected in parliament ; 
but the cardinal was convicted before the King's Bench [Letters and 
Papers, iv. 6075). It must have been under the influence of these fabri- 
cated speeches that a Catholic writer in the Dublin Review (June, 1858, 
p. 258) allowed himself to speak of More as moved by "feelings of the 
meanest and most malignant nature," and of repaying the friendship of 
Wolsey "by supplanting, and then co-operating in his ruin ". Supplant- 
ing! Why, Erasmus tells us that it was Wolsej' himself who proposed 
More as his only fit successor. 


The same chroniclers tell us that, on the 30th March, 1531, 
the chancellor thus addressed the House of Commons : '' You 
of this worshipful House, I am sure, be not ignorant, but you 
know well, that the king, our sovereign lord, hath married his 
brother's wife ; for she was both wedded and bedded with his 
brother, Prince Arthur. If this marriage be good or no, many 
clerks do doubt ; " then, after the opinions of some foreign uni- 
versities had been read out to them, More concluded (according 
to Hall) as follows : "Now you of the Common House may repeat 
in your countries what you have seen and heard, and then all men 
shall openly perceive that the king hath not attempted this matter 
of will or pleasure, as some strangers report, but only for the 
discharge of his conscience and surety of the succession of his 
realm." Burnet has founded on these words an argument that 
More was a partisan of the divorce. "He was a man," says 
Burnet, "of greater integrity than to have said this if he had 
thought the marriage good, so that he has either afterwards 
changed his mind, or did at that time dissemble too artificially 
with the king."* More was neither a dissembler nor did he 
change his mind. Hall and his followers have twisted a message 
he spoke in the king's name into a declaration of his own 
opinions. This is not a conjecture, but is proved by the words 
of Roper, as well as of one who knew More intimately, and 
wrote at the very time. Roper says he carried the king's mes- 
sage, "not showing of what mind himself was therein ". The 
Imperial ambassador, Chapuys, in a letter to Charles V. on the 
2nd April, 1531, says that "on the 30th March the chancellor 
declared to the lords in parliament, by command of the king, 
that there were some who had said that the king was pursuing 
the divorce out of love for some lady, and not out of scruples 
of conscience, and that this was not true ". (Such was the 
king's message : the responsibility for it, if it were false, rested, 
of course, with the king.) Chapuys adds : " Hereupon some 

* History of the Rcformatioti. In his Appendix against Sander, iv. 
552 (ed. Pocock). 


asked the chancellor for his opinion ; on which he said that 
he had many times already declared it to the king, and said no 
more. The chancellor then went down to the Commons, and 
made the same declaration on the part of the king." * 

The life of Sir Thomas More may be told intelligibly without 
entering into the details of the momentous crisis through which 
the Church in England was then passing. It will be sufficient 
to allude to the then ambiguous and mysterious title of Supreme 
Head of the Anglican Church, the recognition of which the king 
was requiring from the clergy, before accepting their subsidy 
and withdrawing the prosecution for violating the Statute 
of Premunire by accepting Wolsey as papal legate. I have 
shown elsewhere t that, though this title was not then put 
forward in opposition to the supremacy of the Holy See, it had 
something novel and perilous about it, that boded evil to the 
liberties and rights of the Church in England. The title was 
given, with the saving clause "so far as the law of Christ 
allows," on nth P'ebruary, 1531. On the 20th Chapuys wrote: 
"There is no one that does not blame this usurpation, except 
those who have promoted it. The chancellor is so mortified 
at it that he is anxious above all things to resign his office." X 
It is clear from this that his voice had ceased to have any weight in 
the royal councils ; § yet either his name gave prestige to the 
government, or the king was still in hopes of gaining him to 
his side, or there was no pretext for his deposition. A year 
later, 13th May, 1532, Chapuys again wrote: "Parliament is 

* Letters and Papers, v. 171. Chapuys' despatches were not known 
to Burnet, but More's own declaration to Cromwell was known to him. 
He read it so carelessly, or with such prejudice, that what More says 
about the king's hope and comfort regarding the invalidity of the bull ot 
dispensation Burnet has supposed to be More's hope. The words of 
More show that he did not even make a pretence that the king was eager 
to calm his scrupulous conscience. 

t In my Life of Blessed Jolm Fisher, ch. ix. 

X Letters and Papers, v. 112. 

§ The council books of this period are lost. 


discussing the revocation of all synodal and other constitutions 
made by the English clergy, and the prohibition of holding 
synods without express licence of the king. This is a strange 
thing. Churchmen will be of less account than shoemakers, 
who have the power of assembling and making their own 
statutes. The king also wishes bishops not to have the power 
to arrest persons accused of heresy. The chancellor and the 
bishops oppose him. He is very angry, especially with the 
chancellor and the Bishop of Winchester, and is determined 
to carry the matter." * This was written only three days 
before More resigned the office he could no longer hold with a 
good conscience. + 

It is clear that, throughout these critical years, the chancellor 
had taken as little part as might be in political life, and had 
confined himself to his duties as a judge. To these we must 
now turn. 

* Letters and Papers, v. 1013. 

t It may be of interest to many to know what Sir Thomas thought 
of synods and convocations. I take the following passage from his 
Apology, written in 1533 : " I suppose he calleth those assemblings at 
their convocations by the name of confederacies, and he giveth a good 
thing and a wholesome, an odious, heinous name. For if they did 
assemble oftener, and there did the things for which such assemblies of 
the clergy in every province through all Christendom from the beginning 
were institute and devised, much more good might have grown thereof 
than the long disuse can suffer us now to perceive. But as for my days, 
as far as I have heard, nor as I suppose a good part of my father's neither, 
they came never together to convocation, but at the request of the king, 
and at their such assemblies concerning spiritual things have very little 
done. Wherefore, that they have been in that great necessary point of 
their duty so negligent, whether God suffer to grow to a secret, un- 
perceived cause of division and grudge against them. God, whom their 
such negligence hath, I fear me, sore offended, knoweth. But surely if 
this ' Paciher ' call those assemblies confederacies, I would not greatly 
wish to be confederate with them, for I could never wit them yet assemble 
for any great winning, but come up to their travail, labour, cost and pain, 
and tarry and talk, ct cetera, and so get them home again "' [English Works, 

V' 914)- 


Sir James Mackintosh, by the aid of researches into legal 
records, has shown how greatly the business in chancery in- 
creased after the time of More. " At the utmost, he did not 
hear more than two hundred cases and arguments yearly, 
including those of every description. No authentic account of 
any case tried before him, if any such be extant, has been yet 
brought to light. No law book alludes to any part of his 
judgments or reasonings. Nothing of this higher part of his 
judicial life is preserved which can warrant us in believing 
more than that it must have displayed his never-failing integrity, 
reason, learning and eloquence," * In the absence, then, of 
official documents we are grateful for the reminiscences of his 
son-in-law, Roper, and the notes of Stapleton. 

Though Wolsey had been a diligent as well as an impartial 
judge, the business of the court of chancery, owing to the 
multitude of his political cares, had fallen into arrears, and 
very shortly before his removal from office, a commission had 
been issued to assist him.t Stapleton writes: "The chan- 
cellor's court is so loaded with business that it scarcely ever 
happens that there are not innumerable causes pending there. 
Certainly when More took the office there were causes that had 
remained undecided for twenty years. He presided so dex- 
terously and successfully that once, after taking his seat and 
deciding a case, when the next case was called it was found 
that there was no second case for trial. Such a thing is said 
never to have happened before or since." % 

" Courts of law," writes Mackintosh, "were jealous then, as 
since, of the power assumed by chancellors to issue injunctions 
to parties to desist from doing certain acts which they were by 
law entitled to do, until the court of chancery should determine 
whether the exercise of the legal right would not work injustice." 
Roper relates that though Sir Thomas granted but few injunc- 

* Life of More, p. 125. f nth June, 1529. 

:}: Vita Mori, cap. 3. 


tions, yet the judges complained, and their complaints coming 
to Roper's ears he informed his father-in-law. Thereupon he 
caused the chief clerk to make a docket of the injunctions 
already passed by him or still depending in any of the courts. 
AVhich done he invited all the judges to dine with him in the 
council chamber at Westminster ; where, after dinner, when 
he had broken with them what complaints he had heard of 
injunctions, and moreover showed them both the number 
and causes of every one of them, upon full debating they were 
forced to confess that they, in like case, could have done no 
otherwise themselves. He then offered that if they would at 
their own discretion, as they were, he thought, in conscience 
bound, mitigate and reform the rigour of the law themselves, he 
would issue no more injunctions. This they refused. After 
that he said secretly to me : ' I perceive, son, why they like 
not so to do ; for they see that they may, by the verdict of the 
jury, cast off all quarrels upon them, which they do account 
their chief defence '." 

" He used commonly," says Roper, " every afternoon to sit 
in his open hall,* to the intent that if any person had any suit 
unto him, they might the more boldly come to his presence 
and then open their complaints before him. Whose manner 
was also to read every bill himself, before he would award any 
subpana, and then would either set his hand to it or cancel it."f 

" One of his sons-in-law on a time said merrily to him that 
when Cardinal Wolsey was lord chancellor, not only they of 
his privy chamber, but also his door-keeper, got great gain 
under him, and seeing he had married one of his daughters, 
he thought he might reasonably look for some ; but as the 
chancellor now kept no doors shut, and all had access to his 
presence, this state of things might be very commendable to 
the judge, but was not very profitable to his son-in-law, since 

* This seems to mean his hall at Chelsea. The chancellors frequently 
heard cases in their own houses, 
t Roper, p. 13. 


he could not accept a fee for getting for those who asked his 
assistance what they could get equally well without him. Sir 
Thomas praised his scrupulous conscience. ' But there are 
many other ways, son,' said he, ' that I may do you good and 
pleasure your friend also — I might help your client by word or 
letter, or give his case precedence, or if I saw his case not the 
best I might move the parties to arbitration. Howbeit this 
one thing, son, I assure thee on my faith, that if the parties 
will at my hands call for justice, then were it my father stood 
on one side and the devil on the other, the devil should have 
his right, if his cause were good.' " * 

It is right to say that Sir James Mackintosh thinks the 
favours indicated by Sir Thomas would have been " altogether 
dishonest," and that he would have recoiled from these in 
practice, t 

Another son-in-law, Giles Heron, presuming in Sir Thomas's 
favour, would in no way make a compromise with his opponent, 
and the result was that when the pleadings were at an end, the 
chancellor made a decree against him. 

Cresacre More tells a tale which, if it is not to be classed 
with the judgment of Solomon, shows at least that humour 
could be allied with justice. A beggar woman had lost her 
dog, and the finder had presented it to Lady More, who kept 
it a fortnight and grew fond of it. The owner, having traced 
the dog, complained to Sir Thomas. He sent at once for the 
lady and the dog. He was sitting in his hall, and, asking his 
wife to go to the upper end and the beggar to the lower end, 
while he himself held the dog, he bade them both call it. The 
dog at once ran to the poor beggar woman, and the judge de- 
cided in her favour ; but Lady More purchased it from her 

* lb., p. 12. 

t Sir James, however, is mistaken in saying that the story is due to 
Cresacre More, who was not a lawyer, and only wrote what had reached 
him by tradition. Roper is the authority, and he was a lawyer, and 
reported what More said to himself. 


with a piece of gold that would have bought three dogs, so that 
all parties were agreed as well as amused. 

Stapleton has preserved a story that perhaps belongs to the 
time when More was under-sheriff rather than to his chancellor- 
ship. While More was presiding in court, assisted by other 
magistrates, a gang of cut-purses was brought up for trial. One 
of the magistrates, an old man, thereupon broke out into a 
vehement tirade against the citizens, who, by looking so care- 
lessly after their purses, encourage these thefts. More found 
means to postpone the case till the next day, and meanwhile 
arranged with one of the thieves what should be done, 
promising him favour if he succeeded. The next day, when 
the case came on for trial, the thief declared that he could clear 
himself, but could only do so by making a secret and impor- 
tant communication to one of the judges. More told him to 
choose whom he would, and he at once chose the old magistrate 
who had spoken so sharply. While pretending to whisper 
something into his ear he managed (as had been arranged by 
More) to abstract the old man's purse, and returned to his place, 
giving to More a sign that he had been successful. Soon after 
More proposed a collection in court for some special object of 
pity, but when the old magistrate looked for his purse to make 
his contribution, to his dismay it was gone. He declared that 
he had it when he took his seat. More thereupon, amid much 
laughter, called on the thief to restore the purse, and gently 
admonished the magistrate not to be so severe in censuring 
other men's carelessness.* 

These and similar stories may seem both insignificant and 
misplaced in the record of the supreme judge of a nation, but 
it often happens that a jest is immortal, while a legal judgment 
filled with ancient saws and modern instances finds no 
chronicler. There remains another aspect of More's chan- 
cellorship that will demand special treatment. Stories are told 

* Vita, cap. 13. 



not merely of severity, but of cruelty to heretics. I will 
reserve the examination of these for a separate chapter, in 
which both his acts and writings against the Lollards and 
Lutherans must be dealt with in some detail. 

What is rightly called the submission of the clergy, or their 
surrender of the right of independent legislation, coincided 
with the resignation of the great seal by Sir Thomas More. 
The official memorandum informs us that he delivered it into 
the king's hands in the garden of York Place, near Westminster, 
at 3 p.m., on i6th May, 1532, in presence of the Duke of 
Norfolk.* Chapuys wrote on 22nd: ''The chancellor has 
resigned, seeing that affairs were going on badly and likely to 
be worse, and that if he retained his office he would be obliged 
to act against his conscience, or incur the king's displeasure, as 
he had already begun to do, for refusing to take his part against 
the clergy. His excuse was that his salary was too small, and 
that he was not equal to the work. Everyone is concerned, for 
there never was a better man in the office." t 

A characteristic story has been preserved by Roper, which 
must be given in his own words : "Whereas upon the holy days 
during his high chancellorship one of his gentlemen, when ser- 
vice at the church was done, ordinarily used to come to my lady 
his wife's pew door, and say unto her, 'Madam, my lord is gone ' ; 
the next holy day after the surrender of his office, and departure 
of his gentlemen from him, he came unto my lady his wife's 
pew himself, and making a low courtesy said unto her : 
' Madam, my lord is gone '. But she, thinking this at first to 
be one of his jests, was little moved, till he told her sadly 
[seriously] that he had given up the great seal. Whereupon, 
she speaking some passionate words, he called his daughters 
then present to see if they could not spy some fault about their 
mother's dressing ; but they after search saying they could not 
find none, he replied : ' Do you not perceive that your 

* Rymer, xiv. 433. "Y Letters and Papers, v. 1046. 


mother's nose standeth somewhat awry ? ' Of which jeer the 
provoked lady was so sensible that she went away from him 
in a rage." * Roper seems here somewhat to have spoilt his 
story by omitting the words of the lady, which may have given 
some occasion and point to this otherwise rather rude bantering. 
Sir John More had lived to witness his son's elevation, but 
died before his resignation.t It has been already mentioned 
that the chancellor, passing the court of King's Bench on his 
way to the chancery, if his father was already seated, would go 
in and ask his blessing on his knees. " When Sir John lay on 
his deathbed," says Roper, " Sir Thomas, according to his 
duty, oftentimes with comfortable words most kindly came to 
visit him, and at his departure out of this world with tears, 
taking him about the neck, most lovingly kissed and embraced 
him, commending him into the hands of Almighty God." If 
the son who thus honoured his father did not enjoy a long life, 
it was because God had better things in store for him in the 
land of the living. 

* Roper's Notes, n. 18. f His will was proved 5th Dec, 1530. 




ROPER writes as follows : " After he had given over the 
chancellorship, and placed all his gentlemen and yeomen 
with noblemen and bishops, and his eight watermen 
with my Lord Audely, that in the same office succeeded him, to 
whom also he gave his great barge — then, he called us all that 
were his children to him, and asked our advice how we might 
now live. By the surrender of his office he could not, as he 
had been wont, bear the whole charges of the family himself, 
yet he was unwilling they should separate. When he saw us 
silent, he said : ' Then I will show my poor mind to you. I 
have been brought up at Oxford, at an Inn of the Chancery, at 
Lincoln's Inn, and also in the king's court, and so from the 
least degree to the highest. And yet have I in yearly revenues 
at this present left me a little over a hundred pounds a year,* 
So that now must we hereafter, if we like to live together, be 
contented to become contributors together. But by my counsel 
it shall not be best for us to fall to the lowest fare first. 
We will not, therefore, descend to Oxford fare, nor to the fare 
of New Inn ; but we will begin with Lincoln's Inn diet, where 
many right worshipful and of good years do live full well to- 
gether. W^hich, if we find not ourselves able to maintain the 
first year, then will we the next year go one step down to New 
Inn fare, wherewith many an honest man is well contented. If 
that exceed our ability too, then we will the next year after 
descend to Oxford fare, where many grave, learned and ancient 

* Say £1200 in modern value. 


fathers be continually conversant. Which if our power stretch 
not to maintain, then may we yet with bags and wallets go a- 
begging together, and hoping that for pity some good folks will 
give us their charity, at every man's door to sing Salve Regina, 
and so still keep company and be merry together." It would 
seem, however, that his sons-in-law were too generous to accept 
this offer. Stapleton informs us that the family was broken up, 
only Roper and his wife remaining in Chelsea, though not in 
their father's house.* 

Thus, as Roper remarks, he had given up a most lucrative 
position to enter the king's service, in which he had spent the 
most vigorous and best part of his life ; he had never been ex- 
travagant, yet when his official salary ceased he had not saved 
enough for household expenses. " The lands that he had pur- 
chased were not," says his son-in-law, " I am assured, above the 
value of 20 marks a year {£,^2> ^s- ^d-)' ^^"^^ after his debts 
paid he had not, I know (his chain excepted), in gold and silver 
left him the worth of ^loo." He had sold his plate, says 
Stapleton, for about ;£^4oo. Roper speaks only of lands pur- 
chased. Sir Thomas, in a work written in 1533, called The 
Apology, says : " As for all the lands and fees that I have in 
all England, besides such lands and fees as I have of the king's 
most noble grace, is not at this day, nor shall be while my 
mother-in-law liveth (whose life and good health I pray God 
long keep and continue) worth yearly to my living the sum of 
full ^50. And thereof have I some by my wife, and some by 
my father (whose soul Our Lord assoil), and some have I also 
purchased myself.f 

* Vlta^ cap. 15. 

f English Works, p. 867. Harpsfield mentions a circumstance which 
shows how far economy had to be practised : " He was compelled for the 
lack of other fuel, every night before he went to bed, to cause a great 
burden of fern to be brought into his own chamber, and with the blaze 
thereof to warm himself, his wife and his children, and so without any 
other fires to go to their beds " (MS. Lift). This was of course before 
the dispersion of the family. 



When Archbishop Warham resigned the chancellorship, in 
15 15, More had written to him a letter of congratulation that 
may be applied to himself in 1532: "I ever judged your 
paternity happy in the wa)'you exercised your office of chancellor, 
but I esteem you much happier now that you have laid it down 
and entered on that most desirable leisure, in which you can 
live for yourself and for God. Such leisure, in my opinion, is 
not only more pleasant than the labour you have forsaken, but 
more honourable than all your honours. To be a judge is the 
lot of many, and sometimes of very bad men. But you pos- 
sessed that supreme office which, when relinquished, is as much 
exposed to calumny as it formerly conferred authority and in- 
dependence ; and to give up this willingly is what none but a 
moderate-minded man would care, and none but an innocent 
man dare, to do."'' 

Sir Thomas now was in this position. The king had, indeed, 
both promised him his continued favour, and commanded the 
Duke of Norfolk to pronounce his eulogy when inducting his 
successor. It was, however, well known that the king was dis- 
satisfied and disappointed, and that the late chancellor had 
enemies at court, especially in the party of Anne Boleyn, so 
that it was not without hope of success that some serious charges 
were brought against him. He was accused by a man named 
Parnell that a Mrs. Vaughan, the wife of his adversary, had 
carried to the chancellor a large silver-gilt cup as a bribe, and 
that a decree had been given in favour of Vaughan. Sir Thomas 
was called before the Council. He acknowledged that such a 
cup had indeed been offered to him as a New-Year's gift, though 
long after the decree, and that he had accepted it out of courtesy. 
The Earl of Wiltshire (the father of Anne Boleyn) at once ex- 
claimed : " Ah ! did I not tell you, my lords, that you would 
find the matter true ? " Sir Thomas begged leave to complete 
the tale. When he had, not without much ado, received the 

* The letter, which is in Latin, is in full in Stapleton, cap. 6. 


cup, he called his butler to fill it with wine, drank to the lady, 
and made her pledge him again. He had then obliged her to 
receive back the cup once njore, and to take it as his New-Year's 
gift to her husband. The lady was summoned, and deposed to 
the truth of this. 

He had made a decree in favour of a Mrs. Croker, a widow, 
against Lord Arundell. At the New-Year she presented him 
with a pair of gloves and ^40 in angels within them. 
He said to her : " Mistress, it were against good manners to for- 
sake a gentlewoman's New- Year's gift. I am, therefore, content 
to take your gloves ; but as for your money, I must utterly refuse 

A Mr. Gresham, who had a cause pending, had sent him at 
the New-Year a silver-gilt cup, of which he much admired the 
shape. He had accepted it, but by the messenger had sent him 
one in return of greater value. 

Roper says he could have related many similar instances of 
his integrity.* 

More did not forget to inform his old friend Erasmus of his 
retirement from office: — 

" From the time I was a boy I have longed, dear Desiderius, 
that what I rejoice in you having always enjoyed I myself might 
some day enjoy also — namely, that being free from public busi- 
ness, I might have some time to devote to God and myself ; 
that, by the grace of a great and good God, and by the favour 
of an indulgent prince, I have at last obtained. I have not, 
however, obtained it as I wished. For I wished to reach that 
last stage of my life in a state, which, though suitable to my age, 
might yet enable me to enjoy my remaining years healthy and 
unbroken, free from disease and pain. But it remains in the 
hand of God whether this wish, perhaps unreasonable, shall be 
accomplished. Meanwhile a disorder of I know not what 
nature has attacked my chest, by which I suffer less in present 

* Notes, n. 24, 25. 


pain than in fear of the consequence. For when it had 
plagued me without abatement some months, the physicians 
whom I consulted gave their opinion that the long continuance 
of it was dangerous, and the speedy cure impossible ; but that 
it must be cured by the gradual alterative effects of time, proper 
diet, and medicine. Neither could they fix the period of my 
recovery nor ensure me a complete cure at last. Con- 
sidering this, I saw that I must either lay down my office or 
discharge my duty in it incompletely. . . . 

" From my house at Chelsea, 14th June, 1532." "' 
This letter was detained some months in Saxony before it 
reached its destination at Basle, as Erasmus informs his friend, 
John Faber, Bishop of Vienna. In the meantime the report 
spread rapidly over Europe that More had been deposed, and 
that his successor had at once liberated all those whom More 
had cast into prison for their religious teachings or professions. 
The bishop had written to Erasmus to learn the truth. Erasmus 
replied that he had been quite sure the report was false before 
he received More's letter, a copy of which he enclosed to the 
bishop. He explained the nature of the chancellorship in 
England, and made the highest eulogy of the manner in which 
More had held that charge. 

" As to what is said about the opening of the prisons," con- 
tinues Erasmus, " I do not know what the truth may be. One 
thing is certain : that More is a man by nature most gentle, 
and that he never molested anyone, who, after being ad- 
monished, was willing to relinquish the sectarian contagion. 
Do these newsmongers mean that the supreme judge in such 
a country as England should have no prison ? Certainly More 
hates the seditious doctrines which are disturbing the whole 
world. He does not conceal this nor wish it to be secret, 
being a man so devout that if he inclines to any extreme it is 
rather towards superstition than impiety. But it is a great 

* Epist. Erasiii., 1223. 


proof of his clemency that, while he was chancellor, not one 
underwent capital punishment for condemned doctrines, while 
so many have suffered in Germany and France. Certainly that 
man has a clement hatred of the impious who, when he has 
the power of putting them to death, strives only to cure the 
vices and save the vicious. Do they wish that he who fills 
the place of the king should favour seditious novelty against 
the judgment of the king and the bishops ? Let us suppose — 
what, however, is far from the truth — that he had no great 
aversion from these new doctrines, either he would be bound 
to conceal his partiality or to resign his ofifice. 

" But let us pass over here all contention about doctrines ; 
who does not know how many light and seditious men are 
ready, under the pretence of doctrine, to commit freely every 
crime, unless the severity of the magistrates put a rein on their 
growing audacity ? Yet these newsmongers are indignant when 
the supreme judge in the kingdom of England does what, in 
the cities which have embraced the new opinions, the senate 
is sometimes forced to do. And had it not been done long 
ago, these false evangelicals would have burst into the inner- 
most chambers and store-rooms of the rich, and everyone 
would have been called a papist who had anything to lose. 
Already so great is the audacity and so unbridled the malice 
of many, that even those who are the inventors and propa- 
gators of the new dogmas, have written sharply against them. 
And yet they want the supreme judge in England to connive 
at the innovations, until the whole swarm of sects shall have 
spread with impunity over the kingdom — a kingdom flourishing 
beyond others in riches, in learning, and in religion. It may 
be indeed that, in honour of the new chancellor, some have 
been set free from prison, such as were harmless or confined 
for lighter crimes ; for such is also the custom at the accession 
of a new king, in order to gain the goodwill of the people ; 
and I fancy that was done when More entered on his office. 
But what is it that these scatterers of false tales propose ? Is 


it to convince the sects, and favourers of sects, that a safe 
retreat is at hand for them in England ? Why, from letters 
that have reached me from most trustworthy men, it appears 
that the king is even less tolerant of the new doctrines than 
the bishops and priests. There is no man of any piety who 
would not wish to see a reform of morals in the Church, but 
no one of any prudence considers it right to tolerate universal 

Erasmus then goes on to express his satisfaction at More's 
timely escape from the absorbing cares of State ; he describes his 
house on the banks of the Thames, and his delightful house- 
hold, which he compares to a Platonic academy, but of a 
Christian Plato. "In the church of his village he has con- 
structed a family tomb, to which he has translated the bones 
of his first wife, so little does he approve of any divorce.* On 
the wall he has placed a tablet, with the record of his life and 
his intentions, which my secretary has written out for you, 
word for word. I see I have been too talkative, but it is 
pleasant to converse with a friend about a friend." t 

In the summer of 1533,+ More refers to this epitaph in a 
letter to Erasmus : " The heretic Tyndale, my fellow-country- 
man, who is in exile nowhere and everywhere, has written to 
England lately that Melanchthon is now with the king of 
France ; that he himself has spoken with one who saw him 
received at Paris with a retinue of 150 horse. Tyndale added 
that he was afraid that should France receive the word of God 
from Melanchthon, it would be confirmed in his belief con- 

* Usque adco illi non placet nllum divortiiim. Besides their obvious 
meaning, the words would appear to hint at More's aversion to the 
royal divorce. 

■[Ep. 426, in App. There is no date, but the letter must have been 
written at the end of 1532 or early in 1533. 

\ The letter (inter. Epist. Erasm,, 461, in App.), has no date, but refers 
to Cranmer, the new archbishop, and his liberality to Erasmus. Cranmer 
was consecrated March 30, 1533. 


cerning the Eucharist in opposition to WyclifFe's sect. See 
how carefully these fellows treat this matter, as if God had 
committed to them the instruction and nurture of the world 
in the rudiments of faith. 

" As to what you wrote, that you had hesitated about publish- 
ing my letter, though there were reasons that made you wish to 
publish it, you need not hesitate at all. Some gossips here have 
been spreading it about that I had to resign against my will, 
though I pretend it was not so. So when I set up my tomb, I 
determined to state the matter as it is in my epitaph, that any 
one might refute it who could. As soon as they had taken note 
of it, as they could not show it to be false, they found fault with 
it as boastful. I preferred this to allowing the other rumour to 
gain ground, not indeed for my own sake, for I do not care 
very much what men say of me, provided that God approves of 
me ; but since I had written in our own tongue some little 
books against some of our defenders of contentious doctrines, 
I considered that I ought to defend the integrity of my name ; 
and that you may know how boastfully I have written you shall 
receive my epitaph, by which you will see that in my security 
of conscience I by no means flatter them, to prevent them from 
saying about me whatever they please. I have waited now till 
the meeting of parliament, since I exercised and resigned 
my office, but as yet no one has come forward to attack me. 
Either I have been so innocent or else so cautious, that 
my opponents must let mc boast of one or other of these 

" But as regards this business, the king has spoken many 
times privately, and twice in public. For in words which I am 
ashamed to repeat, when my successor (a most illustrious man) 
was installed, the king, by the mouth of the Duke of Norfolk, 
the Lord High Treasurer of England, ordered an honourable 
testimony to be given that with difficulty he had yielded to my 
request to retire. And not contented with this, the king, out 
of his singular goodness to me, had the same thing repeated by 


my successor in his own presence, at the solemn assembly of 
the peers and commons, in the speech which is made at the 
opening of parliament. 

" If then you think it expedient you need not hesitate to 
publish my letter. As to what I profess in my letter that I gave 
trouble to heretics, I took pride in writing this.* For I so 
entirely detest that race of men, that there is none to which I 
would be more hostile, unless they amend. For every day 
more and more, I find them to be of such a sort, that I greatly 
fear for what they are bringing on the world." t 

I give this famous epitaph in the old translation of Rastell : 
" Thomas More, a Londoner born, of no noble family, but of 
an honest stock, somewhat brought up in learning ; after that 
in his young days he had been a pleader in the laws of this 
hall J certain years, being one of the under-sheriffs of London, 
was of noble King Henry the Eight (which alone of all kings 
worthily deserved both with sword and pen to be called the 
Defender of the Faith, a glory afore not heard of) called into 
the court, and chose one of the Council and made knight ; 
then made first undertreasurer of England, after that chan- 
cellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and last of all, with great 
favour of his prince, lord chancellor of England. But in the 
mean season, he was chosen speaker of the parliament, and 
besides was divers times in divers places the king's ambassador^ 
and last of all at Cambray, joined fellow and companion with 
Cuthbert Tunstal, chief of that embassy, then Bishop of Lon- 
don, and within a while after Bishop of Durham, who so 
excelleth in learning, wit and virtue, that the whole world scant 
hath at this day any more learned, wiser or better ; where he 
both joyfully saw and was present ambassador when the leagues 

* Hoc ambitiose feci. 

t Inter Epist. Erasm,, 466, in App. 

t Perhaps a misprint for " realm ". 


between the chief princes of Christendom were renewed again, 
and peace so long looked for restored to Christendom, which 
peace Our Lord stablish and make perpetual. 

" When he had thus gone through this course of offices or 
honours, that neither that gracious prince could disallow his 
doings, nor he was odious to the nobility nor unpleasant to the 
people, but yet to thieves, murderers and heretics grievous, at 
last John More, his father, knight, and chosen of the prince to 
be one of the justices of the King's Bench, a civil man, pleasant, 
harmless, gentle, pitiful, just and uncorrupted, in years old, but 
in body more than for his years lusty, after that he perceived 
his life so long lengthened, that he saw his son lord chancellor 
of England, thinking himself now to have lived long enough, 
gladly departed to God. His son then, his father being dead, 
to whom as long as he lived being compared was wont both to 
be called young and himself so thought too, missing now his 
father departed, and seeing four children of his own, and of 
their offspring eleven, began in his own conceit to wax old ; 
and this affection of his was increased by a certain sickly dis- 
position of his breast, even by and by following, as a sign or 
token of age creeping upon him. He, therefore, irked and 
weary of worldly business, giving up his promotions, obtained 
fit last by the incomparable benefit of his most gentle prince, if 
it please God to favour his enterprise, the thing which from a 
child in a manner always he wished and desired : that he might 
have some years of his life free, in which he little and little 
withdrawing himself from the business of this life, might con- 
tinually remember the immortality of the life to come. And 
he hath caused this tomb to be made for himself, his first wife's 
bones hither too, that might every day put him in memory of 
death that never ceases to creep on him. And that this tomb 
made for him in his life-time be not in vain, nor that he fear 
death coming upon him, l^ut that he may willingly, for the 
desire of Christ, die and find death not utterly death to him, 
but the gate of a wealthier life, help him, I beseech you, good 


reader, now with your prayers while he liveth, and when he is 
dead also." 

The epitaph concludes with some Latin verses, which I give 
in the very literal translation of Archdeacon Wrangham : — 

Within this tomb Jane, wife of More, reclines ; 

This More for AHce and himself designs. 

The first, dear object of my youthful vow, 

Gave me three daughters and a son to know ; 

The next — ah ! virtue in a stepdame rare! — 

Nursed my sweet infants with a mother's care. 

With both my years so happily have past, 

Which most my love, I know not — -first or last. 

Oh! had religion destiny allowed, 

How smoothly mixed had our three fortunes flowed ! 

But, be we in the tomb, in heaven allied. 

So kinder death shall grant what life denied.*" 

* From Cayley's Life of More, i. 134. 



IN his epitaph More had designed and emphatically stated 
that he had been " troublesome to thieves, murderers, 
and heretics " (furilms, homicidis^ ho^reticisque molestus). 
We have seen Erasmus's commentary on these words. It is 
necessary, however, to study their force, not as apologists, but 
as historians. Whom does More designate as heretics ? In 
what way did he trouble or " molest " them ? In molesting 
them, did he contradict the principles he had laid down in his 
Utopia about toleration ? Did he remain within, or did he go 
beyond the law as it existed in his time? 

There is a long-standing tradition that he was not merely 
severe, which may seem to be justified by his own words, but 
even arbitrary and unjust. i\nd as his amiable and upright 
character is admitted on all hands, the blame of this warp in 
his character and blot on his fame is cast on the religion which 
he professed. We have seen Horace Walpole writing of " that 
cruel judge whom one knows not how to hate, who persecuted 
others in defence of superstitions he had himself exposed ". It 
is probable that Walpole derived this view of Sir Thomas More 
from Burnet's History of the Reforination. 

Burnet writes : " More was not governed by interest, nor did 
he aspire so to preferment as to stick at nothing that might con- 
tribute to raise him ; nor was he subject to the vanities of 
popularity. The integrity of his whole life and the severity of 
his morals cover him from all these suspicions. If he had 


been formerly corrupted by a superstitious education, it had 
been no extraordinary thing to see so good a man grow to be 
misled by the force of prejudice. But how a man who had 
emancipated himself, and had got into a scheme of free thoughts, 
could be so entirely changed cannot be easily apprehended, 
nor how he came to muffle up his understanding and deliver 
himself up as a property to the blind and enraged fury of the 
priests. It cannot, indeed, be accounted for but by charging it 
on the intoxicating charms of that religion, that can darken the 
clearest understandings and corrupt the best natures ; and 
since they wrought this effect on Sir Thomas More, I cannot 
but conclude that 'if these things were done in the green tree, 
what shall be done in the dry ? '" * 

In our own day the same accusation of cruelty, and the same 
explanation, have been renewed by a popular historian. Mr. 
Froude writes : "Wolsey had chastised them [the innovators] 
with whips ; Sir Thomas More would chastise them with 
scorpions, and the philosopher of the Utopia^ the friend of 
Erasmus, whose life was of blameless beauty, whose genius was 
cultivated to the highest attainable perfection, was to prove to 
the world that the spirit of persecution is no peculiar attribute 
of the pedant, the bigot, or the fanatic, but may co-exist with 
the fairest graces of the human character. The lives of re- 
markable men usually illustrate some emphatic truth. Sir 
Thomas More may be said to have lived to illustrate the 
necessary tendencies of Romanism, in an honest mind convinced 
of the truth ; to show that the test of sincerity in a man who 
professes to regard orthodoxy as an essential of salvation is 
not the readiness to endure persecution, but the courage that 
will venture to inflict it."t 

* History of Rcfoinnation, iii. g8 (Pocock). When Burnet thus wrote 
the penal laws against the Catholics were making their lives a burden. 

t History of England, ii. 73. It is instructive to mark that what 
Burnet calls vaguely " intoxicating charms " Froude calls dogmatic faith, 
and a belief that faith is required by God for salvation. 


Such is the accusation. Let us now hear Sir Thomas's own 
statement of the case, made in the spring of 1533 : " As touch- 
ing heretics, I hate that vice of theirs and not their persons, 
and very fain would I that the one were destroyed and the 
other saved. And that I have toward no man any other mind 
than this — how loudly soever these blessed new brethren and 
professors and preachers of heresy belie me — if all the favour 
and pity that I have used among them to their amendment 
were known, it would, I warrant you, well and plain appear ; 
whereof, if it were requisite, I could bring forth witnesses more 
than men would ween. 

" Howbeit, because it were neither right nor honesty that 
any man should look for more thank than he deserveth, I will 
that all the world wit it on the other side, that who so be so 
deeply grounded in malice, to the harm of his own soul and 
other men's too, and so set upon the sowing of seditious 
heresies, that no good means that men may use unto him can 
pull that malicious folly out of his poisoned, proud, obstinate 
heart, I would rather be content that he were gone in time, 
than overlong to tarry to the destruction of other." * 

If, then. Sir Thomas More requires a defence, no such 
apology can be set up for him as may be valid for the judges, 
who administered our cruel penal code with regard to theft, in 
the early years of the present century — viz., that not being 
legislators they were not responsible for the barbarity of the 
laws, and that being judges they were bound to pass sentence 
according to the laws as they found them. Such a defence is 
not applicable to the case of Sir Thomas More. It would 
exonerate him from any charge of injustice, if it can be shown 
(as it certainly can) that he did not go beyond the law. But 
as regards the imputation of a cruel disposition. Sir Thomas 
would reject a defence based on the supposition that he was 
the reluctant administrator of laws, the existence of which he 

* Apology, ch. xlix. ; English Works, p. 925. 


regretted. In his Apology^ written after he had ceased to act 
as judge, he fully and heartily approves of the laws, both 
ecclesiastical and civil, that then existed in England against 
heresy, and he maintains that these laws had been administered 
with the utmost leniency and indeed with a dangerous laxity.* 

The first question then that occurs is with regard to More's 
consistency. Did his later theories and practice contradict the 
more generous philosophy of his youth ? That the reader may 
judge for himself, I will give without abridgment a passage from 
Utopia in Burnet's translation. 

After stating that in Utopia there were several sorts of religion — 
some idolatrous, some monotheistical — and that the higher views 
were gradually setting aside the others, Raphael (the supposed 
traveller) says that Christianity also had been lately introduced 
by himself and his companions. He then continues as follows : — 

" Those among them that have not received our religion do 
not fright any from it, and use none ill that goes over to it, so 
that all the while I was there one man only was punished on 
this occasion. He being newly baptised did, notwithstanding 
all that we could say to the contrary, dispute publicly concerning 
the Christian religion, with more zeal than discretion, and with 
so much heat, that he not only preferred our worship to theirs, 
but condemned all their rites as profane, and cried out against 
all that adhered to them as impious and sacrilegious persons, 
that were to be damned to everlasting burnings. Upon his 
having frequently preached in this manner he was seized, and 
after trial he was condemned to banishment, not for having 
disparaged their religion, but for his inflaming the people to 
sedition; for this is one of their most ancient laws, that no man 
ought to be punished for his religion. 

" At the first constitution of their government, Utopus under- 
stood that, before his coming among them, the old inhabitants 
had been engaged in great quarrels concerning religion, by 

* So also in his defence of his Apology (Salem and Bizance, ch. xiv., 
p. 958), etc. 


which they were so divided among themselves, that he found it 
an easy thing to conquer them, since, instead of uniting their 
forces against him, every different party in rehgion fought by 
themselves. After he had subdued them he made a law that 
every man might be of what religion he pleased, and might 
endeavour to draw others to it by the force of argument and by 
amicable and modest ways, but without bitterness against those 
of other opinions ; but that he ought to use no other force but 
that of persuasion, and was neither to mix with it reproaches 
nor violence ; and such as did otherwise were to be condemned 
to banishment or slavery. 

"This law was made by Utopus, not only for preserving the 
public peace, which he saw suffered much by daily contentions 
and irreconcilable heats, but because he thought the interest of 
religion itself required it. He judged it not fit to determine 
anything rashly ; and seemed to doubt whether those different 
forms of religion might not all come from God, who might 
inspire man in a different manner, and be pleased with this 
variety ; he therefore thought it indecent and foolish for any 
man to threaten and terrify another to make him believe what 
did not appear to him to be true.* And supposing that only 
one religion was really true, and the rest false, he imagined that 
the native force of truth would at last break forth and shine 
bright, if supported only by the strength of argument, and 
attended to with a gentle and unprejudiced mind; while, on the 
other hand, if such debates were carried on with violence and 
tumults, as the most wicked are always the most obstinate, so 
the best and most holy religion might be choked with supersti- 
tion, as corn is with briars and thorns ; he therefore left men 

* Burnet's translation is here rather free. The Latin is " Certe viae 
minis exigere ut, quod tu verum credis idem omnibus videatur, hoc vero 
et insolens et ineptum ctnsuit," i.e., " To req,uire by violence and threats 
that what you believe to be true should be accepted as true by all, this 
he thought both indecent and foolish ". 



wholly to their liberty, that they might be free to believe as they 
should see cause. 

"Only he made a solemn and severe law against such as should 
so far degenerate from the dignity of human nature, as to think 
that our souls died with our bodies, or that the world was 
governed by chance, without a wise overruling Providence : for 
they all formerly believed that there was a state of rewards and 
punishments to the good and bad after this life ; and they now 
look on those that think otherwise as scarce fit to be counted 
men, since they degrade so noble a being as the soul, and reckon 
it no better than a beast's : thus they are far from looking on 
such men as fit for human society, or to be citizens of a well- 
ordered commonwealth ; since a man of such principles must 
needs, as oft as he dares do it, despise all their laws and 
customs : for there is no doubt to be made, that a man who is 
afraid of nothing but the law, and apprehends nothing after 
death, will not scruple to break through all the laws of his 
country, either by fraud or force, when by this means he may 
satisfy his appetites. They never raise any that hold these 
maxims either to honours or ofiices, nor employ them in any 
public trust, but despise them, as men of base and sordid minds. 
Yet they do not punish them, because they lay this down as a 
maxim, that a man cannot make himself believe whatever he 

This passage of the Utopia was no doubt in Burnet's mind 
when he referred to More's having once " got into a scheme of 
free thoughts ". Sir James Mackintosh, a real lover of liberty, 
very different from Burnet, has written on this subject as 
follows : " It is evident that the two philosophers (More and 
Erasmus), who found all their fair visions dispelled by noise and 
violence, deeply felt the injustice of citing against them, as a 
proof of inconsistency, that they departed from the pleasantries, 
the gay dreams, at most the fond speculations, of their early 
days, when they saw these harmless visions turned into weapons 
of destruction in the blood-stained hands of the boors of 


Saxony, and of the ferocious fanatics of Munster. The virtuous 
love of peace might be more prevalent in More: the Epicurean 
desire of personal ease predominated more in Erasmus. But 
both were, doubtless from commendable or excusable causes, 
incensed against those odious disciples, who now, with no 
friendly voice, invoked their authority against themselves." * 

Though I have cited with pleasure this passage from an 
eminent writer, because it has a bearing on several things 
written by More in his Utopia, I can scarcely adopt it as 
regards the special matter of toleration we are now consider- 
ing ; for I do not find that More's early theories on this 
subject were ever brought as a reproach against him during 
his own lifetime, much less that the innovators whom he 
resisted and prosecuted ever appealed, in favour of their 
own liberty, to general principles of toleration. More himself 
has put the following wish into the mouth of his interlocutor 
in his Dialogue: "I would," says his friend, "all the world 
were agreed to take all violence and compulsion away, upon 
all sides. Christian and heathen, and that no man were con- 
strained to believe but as he could be, by grace, wisdom and 
good works, induced; and then he that would go to God, go 
on in God's name, and he that will go to the devil, the devil 
go with him ".+ This is perhaps the modern theory put in a 
homely way ; but before giving More's answer, let me say that 
this was not the theory of the Lutherans with whom More had 
to do. They pleaded for liberty as having exclusively the 
truth, but they never thought of giving liberty to Catholics. 
The Mass was to be forcibly abolished as a horrible idolatry, 
the monks to be dragged from their cloisters, and if necessary 
whipped at a cart's tail till they would marry and work,:j: and 
the gospel of Luther forced by the civil power upon the world. 

* Life of More, p. 98. 

■\ Dialogue, iv. 13, English Works, p. 275. 

X See Fish's Stipplieation of Beggars. " Tie these holy idle thieves 
to the carts, to be whipped naked about every market town."' 


The state of things that More supposes in his Utopia had 
nothing parallel in that age either among Catholics or Protes- 
tants. Some may think that he approximately describes the 
present state of England ; in which case, could he rise again, 
himself unchanged, in our changed state of society, he would 
doubtless plead for quiet and mutual forbearance, as did his 
Portuguese friend, Raphael, in the conversation at Antwerp. 

For my own part, I can find no evidence of change of views, 
or of inconsistency in the author of the Utopia. In that work 
More is discoursing of people who had no revelation from 
God, and he condemns their acrimonious disputes and intoler- 
ance in matters of pure reason or natural tradition. Before he 
can be accused of inconsistency, it should be shown that the 
social and religious problems, discussed by him in his later 
English writings, were analogous to those contemplated by 
King Utopus, and if so, that he solved them differently. Did 
he, in later years, teach that men left by God to the pure 
exercise of their reason, should not also be left free by their 
rulers, "to seek God, if happily they may feel after Him and 
find Him " ? * Did he ever teach that the unbaptised heathen 
should be compelled by force to accept the true faith ? Did 
he ever teach that men brought up from childhood in heresy, 
and in atheism and materialism, and dazed and bew^ildered by 
the multitude of opinions around them, should be punished 
because they could not see their way to certainty or unity ? 
On the contrary, it was because he foresaw this very state of 
things as the result of Luther's revolt, and grieved over it ; 
because he foresaw that if once unity were broken up, and 
the Catholic faith called in question, the people would be 
"tossed about with every wind of doctrine, by the wickedness 
of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to 
deceive, "+ he therefore met these innovations with an energy 
inspired no less by his love of freedom of thought, than by his 

* Acts xvii. 27. \Eph. iv. 14. 


love of his country. He thought, and he wrote over and over 
again, that there was no slavery like the slavery of sectarianism, 
and no freedom like that enjoyed where all have one unchange- 
able faith. Did More understand the word heretic as it is 
generally understood in England at the present day ? I am 
not proposing a theological, but a historical question. I am 
not asking whether More was right or wrong in his judgment 
regarding heresy, but what did he mean by it ? To most Pro- 
testants, orthodoxy can only mean for each man his private 
opinion or conviction in matters of religion, while heresy can 
only be a nickname for his neighbour's views. It does not 
require a mind of More's acuteness, or a character of his 
fairness, to see at a glance that, in such circumstances, mutual 
forbearance is the strictest of duties, and that no one should 
be violently repressed but he who violently disturbs his 

To More the word heresy conveyed a very different meaning. 
It was the private choice, by an individual, of a doctrine con- 
tradictory to that held to be clearly revealed by the divinely 
guided society to which that individual had belonged. More 
himself points out * (and it is his views we are discussing), that 
according to St. Paul, not only is heresy or faction in religion 
classed with grievous sins like murder, theft, and adultery, t but 
it is supposed by him to be as easily recognised and proved ; 
so that the ruler of the spiritual society can admonish and 
reprove and ultimately reject the criminal, and cast him forth 
from the society, either delivering him over to Satan, like 
Hymeneus and Alexander, that he may learn not to blaspheme, 
or at least warning and commanding the society to avoid him 
as a pestilence. X 

To More a heretic was neither a simple man erring by ignor- 

* English Works, p. 828. 
t Gal. V. 20. 

I Tit. iii. 10; I Tim. i, 20; 2 Tim. ii. 17 — passages frequently 
quoted by More. 


ance, nor a learned man using his freedom in doubtful points : 
he was a man whose heart was " proud, poisoned, and 
obstinate," because he denied the Divine guidance of the 
Church into which he had been baptised, while he claimed 
special Divine inspiration for himself. 

But this is not an adequate explanation of More's aversion 
to Lutheranism and of his conduct towards it. What has been 
said would apply to all heresy, though it were limited to the most 
abstruse points of revelation, and though its holder took no 
pains to propagate it. The zeal, the indignation and the horror of 
Sir Thomas More were aroused, because to him the Lutheran 
doctrines, as they first came before the world, appeared as the 
denial of everything that the Christian people had hitherto 
held in veneration, and as uprooting the foundation of all 
morals. We have seen what he wrote about it in his Latin 
work, under the name of Ross. As time went on he painted 
it in still darker colours, as fuller accounts came of the excesses 
in Germany and Switzerland. " Is it not a wonderful thing," 
he asks, in his Dialogue^ written in 1528 — "Is it not a wonder- 
ful thing, that we should now see a lewd friar so bold and 
shameless to marry a nun and bide thereby, and be taken still 
for a Christian man, and over that, for a man meet to be the 
beginner of a sect, whom any honest man would vouchsafe to 
follow ? If our Lord Ciod, whose wisdom is infinite, should 
have set and studied to devise a vvay whereby He might cast in 
our face the confusion of our folly, how might He have founden 
a more effectual than to suffer us that call ourselves Christian 
folk, to see such a rabble springing up among us, as let not to 
set at nought all the doctors of Christ's Church, and lean to the 
only authority of Friar Tuck and Maid Marion ? " * 

AVe have not, however, yet reached the full motive of More's 
conduct. It was because the buffooneries and infamies of Friar 

* Dialogue, iv. ch. g. English Works, p. 260. It is perhaps needless 
to say that Friar Tuck and Maid Marion were the low buftbons in the 
pageants of Robin Hood. 


Tuck were united with the outrages and violence of Robin Hood 
that More justified their suppression by force. This is the answer 
he gives to his friend who wished that everyone might be left 
free to go to the devil if he chose. Yes, replies More, but he 
shall not drag society with him. It is here I find a perfect 
consistency with the opinions he had expressed in Utopia. 
King Utopus, he says, having no means of attaining unity, 
enforced moderation and mutual toleration, where he had found 
nothing but confusion and bitterness, because that contention 
had weakened the country and laid it open to foreign conquest. 
More, on the contrary, was the highest magistrate in a country 
hitherto in perfect peace and unity in religious matters. 
The Catholic Church had held exclusive possession of England 
for nearly a thousand years, and its doctrines, discipline, and 
institutions had leavened every part of English life. The policy 
of Utopus would certainly have allowed no heated dissensions 
to be introduced to break up this unity. He who would not 
allow the materialists to propagate their opinions, would have 
given no licence to false spiritualists " to bring in sects 
blaspheming ". 

This is the contention of Sir Thomas More throughout his 
many voluminous works of controversy. He says that " it was 
the violent cruelty first used by the heretics themselves against 
good Catholic folk that drove good princes thereto, for preserva- 
tion not of the faith only, but also of peace among the people''.* 
He enters fully into the history of the treatment of heretics. 
The Church, he maintains, had in no age punished them by 
death. The State had done it in self-defence, and had called 
on the Church to define heresy, to judge the fact and deliver 
the relapsed heretic into the hands of the civil power. The 
State (he maintains) only did this when it had attained peace 
and unity by means of the Church, and when it was found by 
experience that heretics ever stirred up sedition and rebellion, 

* English Works, p. 275. See also p. 570, where he enters into 
much detail. 


and if allowed to spread, brought about division and ruin. He 
points to the history of Lollardy in England in the time of 
Henry IV. and Henry V. ; and to the fearful results of Lutheranism 
in Germany, in the violent destruction of the Catholic Church 
in some lands, the wars of the peasants in others ; to the di- 
vision of the empire making it unable to resist the threatened 
invasion of the Turks ; and to that general break-up of what 
was called Christendom, which w^ould be the inevitable con- 
sequence of the spread of these principles. * 

Let us now turn from the theories of More to his personal 
practice. Was he ever cruel or unjust ? It is surely a bold 
thing to accuse him of this after his own challenge. In 1532 
an anonymous writer under the character of a peace-maker had 
thrown great blame on the proceedings of the clergy, but always 
in general terms, as, "Some say," "Many say," etc. Sir 
Thomas writes : " Let this pacifier come forth and appear 
before the king's Grace and his Council, or in what place he list, 
and there prove, calling me thereto, that any one of all these 
had wrong — but if it were for that they were burned no sooner. 
And because he shall not say that I bid him trot about for 
naught, this shall I proffer him, that I will bind myself for 
surety, and find him other twain besides of better substance 
than myself, that for every one of these whom he proveth 
wronged, his ordinary or his other officer by whom the wrong 
was done, shall give this pacifier all his costs about the proof 
and a reasonable reward besides. And yet now, though no 
man would give him nothing, it were his part, perdie ! to prove 
it for his own honesty, since he hath said so far." t 

This public challenge met with no response in More's life- 

* Sir James Mackintosh thinks him unfair in attributing the awful 
outrages of the Sack of Rome in 1527 mainly to the Lutherans. Dr. 
Brewer, however, seems to distribute the guilt between the Lutherans and 
the semi-christianised Saracens in the army of the Constable of Bourbon. 
What More tells on this subject [Dialogue iv. ch. 7) is too hideous to 

•f Apology, ch. XXV. 


time. Thirty years after his death the Protestant martyrologist 
Foxe brought forward some stories of More's cruelty, which are 
the sole foundation on which Burnet and other writers have 
grounded their accusations of his having "delivered himself up 
as a property to the blind and enraged fury of the priests ". 

In his account of John Tewkesbury, a pouchmaker or leather- 
seller of London, Foxe writes as follows : " He was sent from 
the Lollard's Tower* to my Lord Chancellor's, called Sir 
Thomas More, to Chelsea, with all his articles [i.e., the articles 
of accusation], to see whether he could turn him, and that he 
might accuse others ; and there he lay in the porter's lodge, 
hand, foot and head in the stocks, six days without release. 
Then was he carried to Jesii s Ti'ee in his privy garden, where 
he was whipped and also twisted in his brows with a small rope, 
that the blood started out of his eyes, and yet would not accuse 
no man. Then was he let loose in the house for a day, and his 
friends thought to have him at liberty the next day. After this 
he was sent to be racked in the Tower, till he was almost lame 
and there promised to recant." f 

Again, of James Bainham, a lawyer, Foxe writes that he also 
was whipped in Sir Thomas's garden at the Tree of Truth, and 
then sent to the Tower to be racked, " and so he was. Sir 
Thomas More being present himself, till in a manner he had 
lamed him "'.J 

Burnet says that Sir Thomas "looked on, and saw him put 
to the rack ". § 

Foxe wrote in the time of Elizabeth, and he has been proved 
to have picked up every bit of traditional gossip, and to have 
added so many inventions and embellishments of his own, that 
unless where he gives documents his testimony is of no value. 

As regards Tewkesbury, his first examination, after which he 

* Part of old St. Paul's, not of Lambeth. 
\ Book of Martyrs, iv. 689 (ed. Townsend). 
\Ib., iv. 698. 
% History of Reformation, i. 270 (ed. Pocock). 


retracted, was on 8th May, 1529, and this was several months 
before Sir Thomas was chancellor. The story, therefore, of 
his torture in More's garden is clearly mythical. Foxe has 
strangely mixed up the stories of Tewkesbury and Bainham ; 
both are whipped at a tree in Sir Thomas More's garden, though 
whether the Tree of Jesus was the same as the Tree of Truth 
we are not told ; both are sent to the Tower and racked ; both 
retract ; both are afterwards overcome by remorse, and publicly 
bewail their retractation to their friends in a conventicle in Bowe 
Lane, and then afterwards make a public protest in a church, 
and so both are condemned to be burnt. These are strange 
coincidences ; but it is still more strange that a part of what 
Foxe had written of Tewkesbury in one edition, in another 
edition he omitted, and tacked on to his account of Bainham.*" 
The accuracy of P'oxe may be judged from the fact that he im- 
putes the death of Frith to More, yet Frith died in 1533, and 
More had resigned his office a year before. f 

Foxe does not seem to have been the inventor of the story 
of the whippings and racking, for in the 36th chapter of his 
Apology Sir Thomas refers to some such lies as then in 
circulation. The passage is very important, and shall be given 
with little abridgment : " They that are of this brotherhood be 
so bold and so shameless in lying, that whoso shall hear them 
speak, and knowetn not what sect they be of, shall be very sore 
abused [misled] by them. Myself have good experience, for 
the lies are neither few nor small that many of the blessed 
brethren have made, and daily yet make by me. 

" Divers of them have said that of such as were in my house 
while I was chancellor I used to examine them with torments, 
causing them to be bound to a tree in my garden, and there 
piteously beaten. And this tale had some of those good 

* See vol. iv. p. 702, and Appendix, p. 769 (ed. Townsend). 

t In his Apology (p. 887), written in the spring of 1533, More refers to 
Frith as then in the Tower, not by his means, but by " the king's grace 
and his Council". 


brethren so caused to be blown about, that a right worshipful 
friend of mine did of late, within less than this fortnight, tell 
unto another near friend of mine that he had of late heard much 
speaking thereof. 

"What cannot these brethren say that can be so shame- 
less to say thus? For of very truth, albeit that for a great 
robbery or a heinous murder, or sacrilege in a church, 
with carrying away the pix with the Blessed Sacrament, or 
villainously casting it out, I caused sometimes such things to 
be done by some officers of the Marshalsea, or of some other 
])risons, with which ordering of them, and without any great 
hurt that afterwards should stick l)y them, I found out and re- 
pressed many such desperate wretches as else had not failed to 
have gone farther ; yet, saving the sure keeping of heretics, I 
never did cause any such thing to be done to any of 
them in all my life, except only twain. Of which the one was 
a child and a servant of mine in mine own house, whom his 
father had, ere ever he came with me, nursled up in such 
matters, and had set him to attend upon George Jay or (lee, 
otherwise called Clerk, which is a priest, and is now for all that 
wedded in Antwerp, into whose house there the two nuns 
were brought which John Birt, otherwise called Adrian, stole 
out of their cloister to make them harlots. I'his George Jay 
did teach this child his ungracious heresy against the Blessed 
Sacrament of the altar, which heresy this child afterwards, being 
in service with me, began to teach another child in my house, 
which uttered his counsel. And upon that point perceived, I 
caused a servant of mine to stripe him like a child before mine 
household, for amendment of himself and ensample of such 

"Another was one, which after that he had fallen into that 
frantic heresy, fell soon after into plain open frenzy besides." 
More then tells how he was confined in bedlam, and when set 
free disturbed public service in churches, and committed acts of 
great indecency: "Whereupon I, being advertised of these 


pageants, and being sent unto and required by very devout 
religious folk to take some other order with him, caused him, 
as he came wandering by my door, to be taken by the constables 
and bound to a tree in the street before the whole town, and 
there they striped him with rods till he waxed weary, and some- 
what longer. And it appeared well that his remembrance was 
good enough, save that it went about grazing till it was beaten 
home. For he could then very well rehearse his faults himself, 
and speak and treat very well, and promise to do afterwards as 
well. And verily God be thanked, I hear none harm of him 

" And of all that ever came in my hand for heresy, as help 
me God, saving (as 1 said) the sure keeping of them, had never 
any of them any stripe or stroke given them, so much as a fillip 
on the forehead. 

'' But now tell the brethren many marvellous lies, of much 
cruel tormenting that heretics had in my house, so far forth 
that one Segar, a bookseller of Cambridge, which was in mine 
house about four or five days, and never had either bodily harm 
done him, or foul word spoken him, hath reported since, as I 
hear say, to divers, that he was bound to a tree in my garden, 
and thereto too piteously beaten, and yet besides that bound 
about the head with a cord and wrung till he fell down dead in 
a swoon. And this tale of his beating did Tyndale tell to an 
old acquaintance of his own, and to a good lover of mine, with 
one piece farther yet, that while the man was in beating, I spied 
a little purse of his hanging at his doublet, wherein the poor 
man had, as he said, five marks, and that caught I quickly to 
me, and pulled it from his doublet and put it in my bosom, and 
that Segar never saw it after, and therein I trow he said true, 
for no more did I neither, nor before neither, nor I trow no 
more did Segar himself."* 

From this it would seem that Tindale's report of Segar's false 
tale of the whipping and the twisted cord had, by the time of 

* EnglisJi Works, p. goi. 


Foxe, got into the legend of Tewkesbury. On this declaration 
of Sir Thomas More, Sir James Mackintosh writes as follows : 
" This statement, so minute, so easily contradicted, if in any 
part false, was made public after his fall from power, when he 
was surrounded by enemies and could have no friends but the 
generous. He relates circumstances of public notoriety, or at 
least, so known to all his household, which it would have been 
rather a proof of insanity than of imprudence to have alleged 
in his defence, if they had not been indisputably and confessedly 
true. Wherever he touches this subject, there is a quietness 
and a circumstantiality, which are among the least equivocal 
marks of a man who adheres to the temper most favourable to 
the truth, because he is conscious that the truth is favourable to 
him. . . . Defenceless and obnoxious as More then was, no 
man was hardy enough to dispute his truth. Foxe was the first 
who, thirty years afterwards, ventured to oppose it in a vague 
statement, which we know to be in some respects inaccurate ; 
and on this slender authority alone has rested such an imputa- 
tion on the veracity of the most sincere of men."* 

Since the days of Sir James Mackintosh another charge has . 
been made against More. Mr. Anthony Froude writes: "I do 
not intend in this place to relate the stories of his cruelties in 
his house at Chelsea, which he himself partially (!) denied, and 
which at least we may hope were exaggerated"; but Mr. Froude 
goes on to relate what he asserts to have been acts of illegal 
imprisonment committed by More. The first is that of Thomas 
PhiUps ; the second, that of John Field. The evidence against 

* Life of More, pp. loi, 105. Such tales die hard. In 1889 appeared a 
book called Old Chelsea, by Mr. B. G. Martin. It gives a most interest- 
ing account both of Sir Thomas More and his house. Mr. Martin writes 
affectionately of More's " sweet and wholesome nature," yet he repeats 
Foxe's story of the floggings (p. 39), and that " he was imprisoned in the 
very cell, it is said, wherein he had sat as grand inquisitor aforetime 
racking heretics " (p. 42). Thus visitors to Chelsea and the Tower, 
instead of a mental vision of the real Blessed Thomas More, will shudder 
at the spectres of scourge and rack. 


Sir Thomas is merely that Mr. Froude found petitions to the 
king drawn up by the men themselves. Of the result of Field's 
petition Mr. Froude can tell nothing ; of that of Philips he has 
to tell that his complaint was against the Bishop of London 
rather than against More, and that it was cast aside by the 
House of Lords as frivolous.* 

Mr. Froude does not seem to be aware that More himself 
has spoken of these very petitions. Li the 38th chapter of his 
Apology he relates how Thomas Philips, a leatherseller, was 
brought before him when he was chancellor; he was examined 
with great leniency ("in as hearty loving manner as I could") 
and at last " I by indenture delivered him to his ordinary," 
but afterwards, for reasons enumerated, " I advised, and by my 
means helped that he was received prisoner into the Tower. 
And yet after that he complained thereupon, not against me but 
against the ordinary. Whereupon the king's highness com- 
manded certain of the greatest lords of his Council to know how 
the matter stood; which known and reported, his highness 
gave unto Philips such answer as, if he had been half so good 
as I would he were, or half so wise as himself weeneth he wTre, 
he would forthwith have followed, and not stand still in his 
obstinacy so long, as he hath now put himself thereby in another 
deeper peril." 

Sir Thomas continues: "Others have besides this com- 
plained that they have been unjustly handled, and they have 
nothing gotten but rebuke and shame. And some hath been 
heard upon importunate clamour, and the cause and handling 
examined by the greatest lords temporal of the king's most 
honourable council, and that since I left the office, and the 
complainour found in his complaining so very shameless false, 
that he hath been answered that he was too easily dealt with, 
and had wrong that he was no worse served. "+ Sir Thomas 

* History of England, ii. 74. Field's petition is also in Letters and 
Papers, vi. 1059. 

t English Works, p. 906. 


does not mention the names in these latter cases, nor does he 
say that the petitions of redress were made against himself; 
yet it seems likely that Field's complaint is the one last 
enumerated. In any case history contains no record that 
when Cromwell and the Earl of Wiltshire, and More's other 
enemies, were seeking charges against him, Field's complaints 
were considered worthy of attention. Yet Mr. Froude takes 
the fact that complaints were made as equivalent to a proof 
that they were well founded. Surely the great chancellor's 
integrity can survive a ruder shock than this. In the Debella- 
cion of Salem and Bizance, Sir Thomas More again referred 
to the accusations of harshness as follows : " The untruth of 
such false fame hath been before the king's honourable council 
of late well and plainly proved, upon sundry such false com- 
plaints by the king's gracious commandment examined. And 
albeit that this is a thing notoriously known, and that I have 
myself in mine Apology spoken thereof, and that, since that 
book gone abroad, it hath been in likewise before the lords 
well and plainly proved in more matters afresh, and albeit 
that this water washeth away all his matter, yet goeth ever 
this water over this goose's back, and for anything that any 
man can do, no man can make it sink unto the skin, that she 
may once feel it, but ever she shaketh such plain proofs off 
with her feathers of ' Some say,' and ' They say ' the contrary." * 
The goose is still shaking her feathers in Mr. Froude's pages. 

F'rom all that has been gathered together in this chapter, 
I venture to conclude that there is no evidence of change in 
More's views as regards religious liberty, nor did his genial 
character become deteriorated or soured. He held strongly 
that the dogmatising heretics of those days, in the then 
circumstances of England and Christendom, should be forcibly 
repressed, and if necessary ])unished even by death, according 
to the existing laws. Yet in the administration of those laws 
he was not only rigidly upright, but as tender and merciful as 

* English Works, p. 962. 


is compatible with the character and office of a judge. " What 
other controversiahst can be named," asks Sir James Mackin- 
tosh, " who, having the power to crush antagonists whom he 
viewed as the disturbers of the quiet of his own dechning 
years, the destroyers of all the hopes zvhich he had cherished for 
inafiki?id, contented himself with severity of language ? " * 

* Ljfc of More, p. iii. 



Section I. Zeal for the Faith. 

THE task before me in this chapter is beset with no ordinary 
difficulties. The Enghsh controversial works of Sir 
Thomas More fill more than a thousand of the large, 
double column, closely printed pages of the great collection of 
his works, equal to perhaps six volumes like the present. To 
pass these by with a general allusion would be as incongruous 
in a biographer of More as for the writer of Lord Macaulay's life 
to say nothing of, or to refer vaguely to, his Essays. But the 
biographer of Macaulay supposes his readers familiar with the 
Essays, or that they will turn with eager interest to those with 
which they are yet unacquainted when told of their character or of 
the circumstances in which they were written, whereas probably 
not more than one or two of my readers has ever read a page of 
More's polemics, or will ever cast an eye on the volume that 
contains them. Perhaps they may have read in Burnet that 
More was "no divine," that ''he knew nothing of antiquity," 
that " his writings were designed rather for the rabble than for 
learned men ".* Were I to retort that there is more solid 
Divinity, scriptural and patristic learning, force of reasoning, to 
say nothing of wit, in the most hastily written treatise of More's 
than in Burnet's Expositmi of the Thirty-Nine Articles, I 

* History of Reformation, i. 557 (ed. Pocock). 



should be far below the truth, yet I could not ask a reader to 
accept my bare assertion. At most I could beg him to suspend 
his judgment as concerning a thing unknown to him. On the 
other hand, I cannot reproduce by long quotations the some- 
what antiquated and very bitter controversy of the first twenty 
years of Lutheranism ; nor would it be to much purpose to 
analyse minutely works that are quite unlikely to be read. The 
only course left to me is to give some account here — as much 
as possible in More's own words — of the reasons and the 
method of his controversy, and to print in a separate volume 
extracts of permanent interest and characteristic of his style. 

We have already seen in the last chapter that Sir Thomas 
More was moved to his opposition to the new doctrines by his 
keen prevision of their consequences, as well religious as social. 
It is no exaggeration to say that he clearly anticipated and foretold 
such results of the Lutheran revolt as history reveals to us in 
the sudden overthrow by the Scotch fanatics of the whole fabric 
of the Catholic religion and of every venerated monument of 
antiquity, the national madness of the English Puritans, the im- 
pieties and atrocities of the various French revolutions, or the 
brutal agnosticism of modern secularists in England and America. 
When he was chancellor More wrote as follows : " In good 
faith, I never thought other yet, soon after the beginning, but 
that when those folk fell once to their horrible heresies, which 
Tindale in his books has taught us, they should not fail to fall 
soon after unto these others too" {i.e., the tenets of the Munster 
Anabaptists, denying all obligation of law spiritual or temporal, 
rejecting all government, introducing communism in property, 
and abolishing all marriage), " and then that Our Blessed 
Saviour Christ was but only Man, and not God at all. And, as 
help me God, I verily fear that they shall fall unto that at last, 
that there is no God. And then, reckoning neither upon God 
nor devil, nor immortality of their own souls, but jesting and 
scoffing that ' God is a good fellow,' and ' as good a soul hath 
an owl as a cuckoo,' and ' when thou seest my soul hang in the 


hedge then hurl stones at it hardily and spare not'; and, as 
Tindale saith, ' When thou speakest with St. Peter then pray 
him to pray for thee' ; thus reckoning upon nothing but only 
upon this world, '^ and therefore reckoning for nothing but only 
for the body, they shall at the last fall in a new rage, and gather 
themselves together (but if their malice be the better suppressed) 
to make other manner masters than ever they made yet, whereof 
the mischief shall fall in their own necks. But yet if this may 
be suffered once to rise, all the mischief will not fall in their 
own necks alone, but much harm shall hap upon many good 
men's heads, ere these rebellious wretches be well repressed 
again. "t 

More did not find many Englishmen to share his anxieties ; 
he thus expresses and laments the general apathy of good 
Catholics : " If because we know our cause so good we bear 
ourselves thereupon so bold, that we make light and slight of 
our adversaries, it may happen to fare between the Catholics 
and heretics at length, as it fareth sometimes in a suit at the 
law by some good man, against whom a subtle, wily shrew ;{: 
beginneth a false action, and asketh from him all the land he 
hath. This good man sometimes, that knoweth his matter so 
true, persuadeth to himself that it were not possible for him to 
lose it by the law\ And when his counsel talketh with him, 
and asketh him how he can prove this point or that for him- 
self, answereth again : ' Fear ye not for that, sir, I warrant you 
all the country knoweth it. The matter is so true and my 
part so plain, that I care not what judges, what arbiters, what 
twelve men go thereon. I will challenge no man for any 
labour that mine adversary can make therein.' And with such 
good hope the good man goeth him home, and there sitteth 
still and putteth no doubt in the matter. But in the mean- 

* The very profession from which so many of our own artisans call 
themselves Secularists. 

t English Works, pp. 656, 657. 

X A shrew, in More's works, is not a scold, but a rogue. 


while his adversary, which for lack of truth of his cause must 
needs put all his trust in craft, goeth about his matter busily, 
and by all the false means he may, maketh him friends, some 
with good fellowship, some with rewards, findeth a fellow to 
forge him false evidence, maketh means to the sheriff, getteth 
a partial panel, laboureth the jury, and when they come to the 
bar hath all his trinkets ready ; whereas good Tom Truth 
cometh forth upon the other side, and because he weeneth all 
the world knoweth how true his matter is, bringeth never a 
witness w^ith him, and all his evidence unsorted. And one 
wist I once that brought unto the bar. when the jury was 
sworn, and openly delivered his counsel, his tinder box, with 
his flint and his matches, instead of his box of evidence, for that 
had he left at home. So negligent are good folk sometimes, 
when the known truth of their matter maketh them over bold. 

" And surely much after this fashion in many places play 
these heretics and we. For like as a few birds, always chirk- 
ing and flying from bush to bush, seem a great many, so these 
heretics be so busily walking, that in every ale-house, in every 
tavern, in every barge, and almost every boat, as few as they be, 
a man shall always find some. And there be they so busy 
with their talking (and in better places also where they may 
be heard), so fervent and importune in putting forth of any- 
thing which may serve for the furtherance of their purpose, that 
between their importunate preaching and the diligence or 
rather the negligence of good Catholic men, appeareth oft times 
as great a difference as between frost and fire. 

" And surely between the true Catholic folk and the false 
heretics, it fareth also much like as it fared between false Judas 
and Christ's faithful Apostles. For while they, for all Christ's 
calling upon them to wake and pray, fell fast in a slumber, and 
after in dead sleep, the traitor neither slept nor slumbered, but 
went about full busily to betray his Master, and bring himself 
to mischief."* 

* English Works, p. 921. 


Roper tells us : "It fortuned, before the matter of the king's 
matrimony brought in question, when I, in talk with Sir 
Thomas More, of a certain joy commended unto him the happy 
estate of this realm, that had so Catholic a prince that no 
heretic durst show his face, so virtuous and learned a clergy, so 
grave and sound a nobility, and so loving, obedient subjects, 
all in one faith agreeing together. ' Truth it is indeed, son 
Roper,' quoth he, and in all degrees and estates of the same 
went far beyond me in commendation thereof; 'and yet, son 
Roper, I pray God,' said he, ' that some of us, as high as we 
seem to sit upon the mountains, treading heretics under our 
feet like ants, live not the day that we w^ould gladly be at league 
and composition with them, to let them have their churches 
quietly to themselves, so that they would be contented to let 
us have ours quietly to ourselves.' After that I had told him 
many considerations why he had no cause to say so : ' Well,' 
said he, ' I pray God, son Roper, some of us live not till that 
day,' showing me no reason why he should put any doubt 
therein. To whom I said, ' By my troth, sir, it is very des- 
perately spoken ' (that vile term, I cry God mercy, did I give 
him). Who, by these words, perceiving me in a fume, said 
merrily unto me, 'It shall not be so, it shall not be so'."* 

In the year 1526, before he had begun any of his own 
English works against the heretics. More showed his great zeal 
and anxiety in the matter in the following letter to Erasmus. 
After some expressions of sympathy for his physical sufferings, 
he says that the Christian world can ill spare him and is 
exi)ecting some more of his excellent works. " But especially 
what is still wanting of your HyperaspistesA You can conceive 
nothing more fruitful to all, more pleasing to your friends, more 
honourable to yourself or more necessary. You cannot believe 
how eagerly all good men expect it; on the contrary, the bad, 

* Notes, no. xiii. 

t The title of the answer of Erasmus to Luther's book Dc Servo Arbitrio. 
Hypcraspistcs means "champion" or "protector". 


who favour Luther or envy you, seem to grow more bold and 
numerous from your delay in replying. If you have merely 
postponed this work to finish some other things, such as the 
hisiihition of Christian Matrimony^ which her Majesty the 
Queen esteems so much (as you will soon, I trust, feel), I can 
bear the delay. If you are taking your time to treat the matter 
more accurately, I am delighted, for I desire that part to be 
treated with the utmost diligence. But if the reason of your 
delay is, as some report, that fear has caused you to give it up, 
I cannot repress my sorrow or sufficiently express my surprise. 
O my dearest Erasmus, God forbid that, after all your Hercu- 
lean labours and your dangers, after all the toils and vigils to 
benefit the world, in which you have spent the best years of 
your life, you should begin now so miserably to love these 
sick souls, that rather than lose their suffrage you should desert 
the cause of God. 

" As regards myself I can neither promise nor hope what all 
expect from you, from the well-known examples you have given 
of a soul strong and trustful in God. I can never doubt that 
to your life's end, whatever catastrophe may befall, you will 
manifest the same fortitude, since you cannot but trust that 
God, who has allowed this tragedy, will come in due time to 
our aid. 

" Besides there is, as I conceive, just now no great reason 
to fear, much less to be overwhelmed by it. If the Lutherans 
intended to do anything, they would have been more likely to 
do it before you answered at all, for so they would have pre- 
vented your answering. Or if they wished to be revenged for 
what you have written, they would have poured out their fury 
on you when your first book appeared, in which you so painted 
the wild beast, and so pointed out the evil spirit that drives him 
on, that you have made that smoky and infernal demon as 
visible to men's eyes as if you had dragged Cerberus out of 
hell. What danger, therefore, now remains I do not see, which 
would not equally threaten if you write no more. You have 


answered his calumnies against yourself, and transfixed him 
with your pen ; there now remains only to treat the passages 
of Holy Scripture ; and since in the thousand copies of your 
first i)art you have promised the whole world, as by so many 
bonds, that you would diligently execute that second part, you 
cannot refuse to pursue the cause of God after having success- 
fully achieved your own, or to perform what you have publicly 
promised, especially since you can do it so easily. Nor is 
Luther such a fool as to hope you will refrain, nor so unjust as 
to dare to ask it. That he desires you to keep silence I have 
no doubt, however much he may pretend a magnificent con- 
tempt of you in his letter, of which it is hard to say whether it 
is more boastful or more foolish. He is conscious enough how 
the miserable glosses by which he has tried to obscure the 
most clear passages of Holy Scripture, cold as they were al- 
ready, become under your criticism the merest ice." More 
then begs his friend to write a confidential letter, if there is 
really some danger that in England is not known. Then after 
a short digression about the visit of Holbein, he concludes : 
" You have done well to confute in a pamphlet the opinion 
that had been wickedly spread about that you favoured the 
heresy of Carldstadt.* But, although I would gladly see some 
day, if God grants you leisure, a treatise on this subject [the 
Holy Eucharist] to confirm our faith, proceeding from that 
heart of yours which is made to defend the truth, yet I am so 
solicitous regarding the Hyperaspistes, that I trust you will take 
nothing to heart so as to call off your care and thought from 
the finishing of that work. Farewell, dearest of all mortals, 
Erasmus. From Greenwich, the i8th December, 1526. Yours, 
with more than my whole heart, Thomas More." t Whether 

* This refers to a book published by Erasmus in 1526 called Dctcctio 
PrcrtigiarKin, etc. 

f Letter 334, in App. inter Epist. Erasmi. The date 1525 given by Le 
Clerc is wrong, for the first part of Hypcnispistcs was not published till 
1526, nor the Dctcctio above referred to. 


or not the admonition of More was needed to stir up the zeal 
of Erasmus, it was not thrown aw\ay. The second book of the 
Hyperaspistes appeared in 1527. Luther and Erasmus were 
for ever separated, and Luther never ceased to denounce his 
opponent as a free-thinker, an empty pedant, a man to be 
avoided like the plague. 

The accusation did not on that account cease to be made 
by many Catholics that Luther had merely carried out the 
principles of Erasmus, and boldly denied where Erasmus only 
hinted doubts, that Luther hatched the egg laid by Erasmus ; * 
yet Erasmus could now repudiate the charge with some force : 
" They lie most impudently who say that this Lutheran confla- 
gration has been kindled by my wTitings, for no one has been 
able to point out one condemned proposition which I have in 
common with Luther. Collusion between me and Luther ! 
Yes, as Hector colluded with Achilles. Read my Diatribe (on 
Free Will) and Luther's answer, than which nothing can be 
more hostile, and read also the two books of my Hyperaspistes 
in reply to him. . . . There are some whose only study it is to 
gather out of my many treatises, some of which I wrote when I 
was young and when all was peaceable, and some not seriously, 
whatever they can twist tow^ards a suspicion of Lutheran doc- 
trines. Even this they do most impudently and calumniously. 
But if they really side with the Sovereign Pontiff, how much 
better would it be to select those things which show that I 
differ from the paradoxes of Luther." f 

But to return to England. 

The anxiety felt by More at the spread of heresy and its 
probable results was shared by the Bishop of London, Cuthbert 
Tunstall. There existed between him and More the closest 
friendship and mutual admiration. They had acted together 
in several embassies, as we have seen. On the subject of the 

* The words are quoted by Erasmus himself. 

^Ep. 345, in App. The whole letter, to John Gacchus, a Franciscan, 
is one of Erasmus' best. It was written from Basle in 1527. 


supremacy of the Holy See, Tunstall's views were erroneous,* 
and led him to acquiesce in Henry's schism, though experience 
made him wiser, and he was not only reconciled with the 
Church, but died in resistance to the renewal of the schism in 
the first year of Elizabeth. But as regards Lutheranism and 
the denial of the sacraments and visible Church as taught by 
Tindale, Barns, and the other English heretics, he was always 
orthodox, and no one was more anxious to stop the spread of 
heretical books. English books were being printed on the con- 
tinent and energetically scattered in England. The very novelty 
and startling nature of their denial of hitherto received belief, 
and of their attack on ancient and universal practice, excited 
men's curiosity, and won for them an attention quite dispropor- 
tioned to their intrinsic importance. As modern evolutionist 
theories, by giving a new explanation of the universe, and 
overthrowing the old foundations of morality, have excited 
the imagination far beyond the influence of their scientific 
appeals to reason ; so did the sweeping negations of Luther, 
Zwingle, and their followers fascinate the minds of the young, 
and their satire on the clergy was greedily read by the irreligious 
and discontented. It appeared to Tunstall and More that the 
mischief being wrought by these books could not be effectually 
met either by measures of suppressions or by the learned 
refutations published in Latin by professed theologians. Eng- 
glish books written in a popular style, to defend Catholic 
doctrines and expose the sophisms of the heretics, were 
urgently needed ; and there was no man in England so fitted for 
the task as More. Whether the ihought of More's devoting his 
life to this work originated with him or with Tunstall, we 
cannot know. In Tunstall's Register is the following document, 
dated March, 1527, and addressed to Sir Thomas More: 
*' Because you, most dear brother, are able to emulate 
Demosthenes in our vernacular tongue no less than in Latin, 

* I judge from his own MS. treatise, which w ill be quoted in a later 


and are wont to be an ardent defender of Catholic truth 
whenever you hear it attacked, you cannot spend the occasional 
hours that you can steal from your official duties better than in 
composing in our own language such books as may show to 
simple and unlearned men the cunning malice of the heretics, 
and fortify them against these impious subverters of the 
Church ". (The Bishop, therefore, by the powers received from 
the Holy See, gives to Sir Thomas faculty to read the books of 
heretics for their refutation.) " For it is of great help towards 
victory to know thoroughly the plans of the enemy, what they 
hold and whither they tend ; for if you go about to refute 
what they protest that they do not hold, you lose your pains. 
Engage therefore courageously in this holy work, by which you 
will benefit the Church of God, make for yourself an immortal 
fame, and win eternal glory in heaven." * 

Section II. Fruits of Zeal. 

I. " The Dialogue." 

More's first work is in the form of a dialogue, and in his 
other books he refers to it by this title. In Utopia, and in the 
Latin book against Luther, there was an ingenious fiction as to 
their composition ; so also is this. A friend of More's is 
supposed to have sent a messenger, a young man studying at 
one of the universities, and somewhat bitten with the new 
opinions, to consult More, who encourages him to speak out 
quite freely his own difficulties, and to state as strongly as he 
can what he has heard said by others. This gives More an oppor- 
tunity of stating the Lutheran doctrines and objections as forcibly 
as their maintainers could have themselves desired, and with 
far more wit than the best of them possessed. More and 
the messenger begin by discussing the lawfulness and reason- 
ableness of troubling people for their religious belief or teaching. 
They soon get into the question of the use of images and 

* Burnet, iv. p. 13 ; Wilkins, iii. 711. 



pilgrimages, and of praying to saints, then very prevalent topics. 
Thus they are brought to discuss the truth of miracles, and at 
last the possibility of miracles, and (I may say in passing) 
Hume's famous argument is thoroughly anticipated and solved. 
Thence they come to the criterion of miracles, and whether 
they are worked by the devil to lead the Church into error. 
This brings them to the possibility of the Church being 
deceived, and the means provided by God to learn the truth, 
to Scripture and its interpretation ; the test of inspiration, and 
the presence of the Holy Ghost in the visible Church. In 
the third book much is said of Tindale's recent translation of 
the New Testament into English, of its heretical bias. The 
fourth book gives the history of Luther's own fall, of his self- 
contradiction, and the results of his teaching. 

More is supposed to write a full account of all this discussion 
to the friend who sent him the messenger. Hence he uses 
perpetually the phrases, Quoih he, Quoth I, and Quoth your 
friend ; so that the book was popularly known as Quod he and 
Quod I. The Dialogue, though redundant in words, as was 
the style of the age, is never dull, and theological disputes are 
enlivened by amusing illustrations and merry tales. When 
Sir Thomas was told that the Hghtness of his style was brought 
as an objection against him, he replied that the matter required 
no defence : " For, as Horace saith, a man may sometimes say 
full sooth in game ; and one that is but a layman as I am, it 
may better haply become him merrily to tell his mind than 
seriously and solemnly to preach. And over this, I can scant 
believe that ' the brethren ' find any mirth in my books, for I 
have not much heard that they very merrily read them." * 

II. " Supplication of Souls." 

The book called The Dialogue appeared in 1528, and Sir 
Thomas soon found occupation for his pen in composing a 
second controversial work, called The Supplication of Sou/s. 

*■ English Works, p. 927. 


This was an answer to The Supplication of Beggajs, an incen- 
diary tract that appeared late in the same year, or early 
in 1529. 

Simon Fish, its author, was a member of the University of 
Oxford, and a law student in London. Having publicly 
ridiculed Wolsey, he fled into the low countries, and became 
intimate with some of the English exiles, and imbibed their 
heresy. It was there he composed, in 1528, his Siipplication 
of the Beggars. Foxe gives two contradictory accounts of the 
way in which this book was brought to the knowledge of the 
king, and of the way in which the king secretly connived at 
its propagation. Mr. Creighton thinks it probable that Henry 
saw in it a convenient means of preparing men's minds for the 
ecclesiastical revolutions he was already meditating in 1529.* 
In any case it was widely spread through London before the 
meeting of the parliament, which was to begin its work by 
drawing up grievances against the Church, and to end in 
formal schism and heresy. 

Fish's book is vigorously written, and in a form likely to take 
the popular fancy. Its statistics of the number of parishes in 
England, and the wealth of the Church, are acknowledged to 
have been greatly exaggerated ; but such a defect would be 
little cared for by the men likely to read it. Its great literary 
merit was that it was very short — it fills only fourteen pages of 
the reprint of the Early English Text Society. An answer 
can seldom be as short as an objection ; yet it seems a pity 
that More never saw the advantage of connecting brevity with 
wit. Fish had drawn up his booklet in the form of a petition, 
addressed by the beggars of England to the king, complaining 
that the mendicant friars consumed what belonged by right to 
the diseased, the aged, and the impotent. In the course of 
the petition they allude to the alms given to the friars to say 
Masses for the dead, and deny the existence of purgatory. 

* 'Dictionary of National Biography, Art. Fish. 


Mere's religious faith was outraged no less than his social 
instincts. His answer is divided into two books, in the former 
of which he examines the accuracy of the charges made against 
the friars and the clergy in general, and shows how the prin- 
ciples on which the author demands the confiscation of eccle- 
siastical goods would involve the general plunder of the rich 
by the poor. In the second book he defends the doctrine of 
purgatory, and of suffrages for the dead. 

The book must have been very quickly written, and perhaps 
when More adopted his opponent's literary form and made his 
answer a Supplication of Souls he scarcely foresaw the incon- 
gruities into which he would be led as his book gradually 
developed into a political and theological treatise. The souls 
give a learned dissertation on the laws of mortmain, on the 
value of the currency, and (for the refutation of the beggars' 
calumnies) enter into all the details of the treatment and death of 
a certain Richard Hun. Perhaps they could do all this better 
than the " foul unhappy sort of lepers and other sore people ' 
could have discussed economical problems and illustrated them 
from the history of King Arthur and King John, as they do in 
Fish's address to the king. But we are rather startled when, 
in More's pages, the souls begin to relate merry tales and to 
make jokes. In fact, in one place they go so far that they have 
to apologise to their readers : "Surely," they say, "we cannot 
but here confess the truth, these nice and wanton words do not 
very well with us ; but we must pray God and you to pardon 
us, for, in good faith, his matter of monks' marriages is so 
merry and so mad, that it were able to make one laugh that 
lieth in the fire ".* We are more easily reconciled to political 
discourse, for are we not listening to ancient legislators and 
statesmen? As the parliament was about to meet, and the 
news had reached purgatory that plots were being contrived 
against the clergy, it was natural for these holy souls to give the 

* English Works, p. 306. 


benefit of their experience: "Ye would peradventure ween,'' 
they say, " that the man (Simon Fish) would now devise some 
good, wholesome laws for help of all these matters. Nay, he 
will none thereof, for he saith that the clergy is stronger in the 
parliament than the king himself. For in the higher house he 
reckoneth that the spirituality is more in number and stronger 
than the temporality ; and in the common house he saith that 
all the learned men of the realm, except the king's learned 
Council, be feed with the Church to speak against the king's 
crown and dignity, and therefore he thinketh the king unable 
to make any law against the faults of the clergy. This beggars' 
])roctor would fain show himself a man of great experience, and 
one that had great knowledge of the manner and order used in 
the king's parliaments. But then he speaketh so savourly 
hereof, that it well appeareth of his wise words he neither 
canneth any skill thereof, nor never came in the house. For, 
as for the higher house, first the king's own royal person alone 
more than counterpoiseth all the lords spiritual present with 
him and the temporal too. And over this the spiritual lords 
can never in number exceed the lords temporal, but must needs 
be far underneath them if it please the king. For His Highness 
may call thither by his writ many more temporal lords at his 
own pleasure. And, being as they be, there was never yet 
seen that the spiritual lords banded themselves there as a 
party against the temporal lords ; but it hath been seen that 
the thins; which the spiritual lords have moved and thought 
reasonable, the temporal lords have denied and refused, as 
appeareth upon the motion made for the legitimation of the 
children born before the marriage of their parents, wherein 
albeit that the reformation which the lords spiritual moved was 
a thing that nothing pertained to their own commodity, and 
albeit they laid also for their part the constitution and 
ordinance of the Church, and the laws of other Christian 
countries, yet could they not obtain against the lords temporal, 
that nothing alledged to the contrary but their own wills." The 


souls then go on to refute what had been said of the lower 
house : "And surely if he had been in the common house as 
some of us have been, he should have seen the spirituality not 
gladly spoken for," etc.* 

There is a great deal worth studying from a historical and 
political point of view in this treatise. On its religious aspect 
I will not here dwell ; but I may promise the reader that he 
will find no dry theological treatise on sin and its punishment. 
More makes everything picturesque. The souls thus bewail 
the care they gave before death for pompous funerals, and how 
little they took heed of their real wants : " Much have we left 
in our executors' hands, which would God we had bestowed 
upon poor folk for our own souls and our friends' with our own 
hands. Much have many of us bestowed upon rich men in 
gold rings and black gowns, much in many tapers and torches, 
much in worldly pomp and high solemn ceremonies about our 
funerals, whereof the brittle glory standeth us here, God wot, in 
very little stead, but hath on the other side done us great dis- 
pleasure. For albeit that the kind solicitude and loving 
diligence of the quick, used about the burying of the dead, is 
well allowed and approved afore the face of God ; yet much 
superfluous charge used for boast and ostentation, namely, 
devised by the dead before his death, is of God greatly mis- 
hked. And most especially the kind and fashion thereof, wherein 
some of us have fallen, and many besides us that now lie 
damned in hell. For some hath there of us, while we were in 
health, not so much studied how we might die penitent and in 
good Christian plight, as how we might be solemnly borne out 
to burying, have gay and goodly funerals, with heralds at our 
hearses, and offering up our helmets, setting up our escutcheon 
and coat armours on the wall, though there never came harness 
on our backs, nor never ancestor of ours ever bare arms before. 
Then devised we some doctor to make a sermon at our Mass in 

* English Works, p. 301. 


our month's mind, and there preach to our praise with some 
fond fantasy devised of our name ; * and after Mass, much feast- 
ing, riotous and costly ; and finally, like madmen made we men 
merry at our death and take our burying for a bride-ale. For 
special punishment whereof, some of us have been by our evil 
angels brought forth full heavily, in full great despite, to behold 
our own burying, and to stand in great pain invisible among 
the press, and made to look on our carrion corpse carried out 
with great pomp, whereof Our Lord knoweth we have taken 
heavy pleasure."! 

Much more of this treatise should I like to quote, but I must 
be content with one short passage. The evil angels appointed 
to punish the souls "convey us (say the souls) into our own 
houses, and there double is our pain, with spite sometimes of 
the self-same thing, which while we lived was half our heaven 
to behold. There show they us our substance and our bags 
stuffed wnth gold, which, when we now see, we set much less by 
them than would an old man that found a bag of cherry stones 
which he laid up when he was a child." 

Even in the pathetic description given by the souls of their 
forgetful relatives More's humour breaks out : " Yet we hear 
sometimes our wives pray for us warmly ; for in chiding with 
her second husband, to spite him withal, ' God have mercy/ 
saith she, ' on my first husband's soul, for he was a wise and 
honest man, far unlike you'. And then marvel we much when 
we hear them say so well by us, for they were ever wont to tell 
us far otherwise, "it 

More had adopted this style to get his book read. He knew 
the temper of the times, and probably had forecast in his mind 
the avarice of the monarch, which glutted itself only a few 

* Not only were More's contemporaries fond of rebuses, but the 
Christian or surname was taken as a text of a funeral oration, and 
tortured into silly moralities. 

t English Works, p. 335. 

+ lb., p. 336. 


years later in the plunder of the monasteries. The following 
passage contains his warning on this head : " He (Simon Fish) 
reckoneth all the clergy idle because they labour not with their 
hands till their faces sweat. But Our Saviour Christ reckoned 
far otherwise in Blessed Mary Magdalen, whose idle sitting at 
her ease and hearkening he accounted and declared for better 
business than the busy stirring and walking about of His good 
hostess Martha, which was yet of all worldly business occupied 
about the best ; for she was busy about alms and hospitality, 
and the guesting of the best Poor Man and most gracious Guest 
that ever was guested in this world. Now, if this cannot yet 
content this good man, because of God's commandment given 
unto Adam, that he should eat his bread in the sweat of his 
face, then would we fain wit whether himself never go to meat 
till he have wrought so sore with his hands that his face 
sweateth. Howbeit he thinketh it peradventure enough for 
him that he sitteth and studieth till he sweat in seeking out old 
heresies and devising new. And verily, if he look that such 
business should serve him for a discharge of hand-labour, much 
better may we think discharged thereof many good men whom 
he would have beaten thereto, living their lives in fasting, 
prayer, and preaching, and studying about the truth. 

" But it is good to look betime what this beggars' proctor 
meaneth by this commandment of hand-labour. For if he 
confess that it bindeth not every man, then is it laid to no pur- 
pose against the clergy, for there was small clergy when that 
word was said to our first father, Adam. But now, if ye call it 
a precept as "he doth, and then will that it extend unto all the 
whole kind of man, then, though he say little now, he meaneth 
to go further hereafter. For if he might first have the clergy 
put out of their living, and all that they had clean taken from 
them . . . this pageant once played ... he would after make 
another bill to the people against merchants, gentlemen, kings, 
lords, and princes, and complain that they have all, and say 
that they do nothing for it but live idle, and that they be com- 



manded in Genesis to live by the labour of their hands in the 
sweat of their faces, as he sayeth by the clergy now. . . . 
Whoso will advise princes or lay people to take from the clergy 
their possessions, alledging matters at large, as laying to their 
charge that they live not as they should, nor use not well their 
possessions, and that therefore it were well done to take them 
from them by force and dispose of them better. . . . We 
would give you counsel to look well w^hat will follow. For he 
shall not fail ... to find reasons enough that should please 
the people's ears, wherewith he would labour to have lords' 
lands and all honest men's goods to be pulled from them by 
force, and distributed among beggars. . . . We be content 
that ye believe us not, but if it have so proved already by those 
uplandish Lutherans that rose up in Almaine. "* 

Simon Fish died of the plague about a year after the publica- 
tion of his book, and More tells us that, before his illness "God 
gave him such grace, that he repented and came into the 
Church again, and forsook and forswore all the whole bill of 
those heresies ".f 

III. Confutation of Tindale's Answer. 
Fish had written that all the abuses came because "the king's 
chief judge (the chancellor) was always a spiritual man ".J He 
lived long enough to witness Wolsey's fall and a layman's eleva- 
tion to the dignity. The cares of that great office, far from 
blunting More's zeal, sharpened it by bringing clearly and fre- 
quently before him the mischief that was being worked by the 
spread of heresy. It was during his chancellorship that he 
made time to write the most voluminous of all his works, his 
confutation of Tindale's answer to his Dialogue. This work of 
More's, including his answer to Friar Barns, is divided into nine 
books, and would make three good octavo volumes. § 

* English Works, p. 304. t lb., p. 881. 

X Reprint by Early English Text Society, p. 13. 

§ It was brought out in two separate parts. The printer was More's 
brother-in-law, John Rastell. 


William Tindale's name is so prominent among the first 
English Protestants, and his history so well known, that it is 
I'reedless to speak of it here. More's controversy with him is 
pretty well summed up in the following passage, which is of 
special interest because Tindale threatened More with a bad 
end for resisting the truth. More died at the block; Tindale 
outlived him, but died at the stake. 

'' It liketh Tindale to liken me to Balaam, Pharaoh, and to 
Judas too. Since the pith of all his process standeth in this 
one point, that his heresies be the true faith, and that the 
Catholic faith is false; that the holy days nor the fasting 
days no man need to keep ; that the Divine services in the 
church is all but superstition ; that the church and the ale- 
house is all one, saving for such holy preaching ; that men have 
no free will of their own to do good nor ill ; that to reverence 
Christ's Cross or any saint's image is idolatry ; that to do any 
good work, fast, give alms, or other, with intent the rather to 
get heaven or to be the better rewarded there, is deadly sin 
afore God and worse than idolatry ; to think that the Mass may 
do men any good more than the priest himself were a false 
belief; a false faith also to pray for any soul; great sin to 
shrive us or to do penance for sin ; friars may well wed nuns 
and must needs have wives ; and the sacraments of Christ must 
serve for Tindale's jesting stock. These be the truths thatTindale 
preacheth. And because I call these truths heresies, therefore, 
Tindale calleth me Balaam, Judas, and Pharaoh, and threateneth 
me sore with the vengeance of God and with an evil death. 

" What death each man shall die, that hangeth in God's 
hands, and martyrs have died for God and heretics have died 
for the devil. But since I know it very well, and so doth 
Tindale too, that the holy saints dead before these days, since 
Christ's time till our own, believed as I do, and Tindale's truths 
be stark devilish heresies ; if God give me the grace to suffer 
for saying the same, I shall never in my right wit wish to die 
better. And, therefore, since all the matter standeth in this 


point alone, that if his heresies be the true faith, then I stand 
in peril, and if they be a false faith I may be safe enough ; let 
him leave his sermon hardily for the while, and first go prove 
his lies true, and then come again and preach, and Friar 
Luther also, and his leman with him too, and then may the 
geese provide the fox a pulpit." * 

IV. Letter against Frith. 

Another of More's antagonists was a young man named John 
Frith, who, after being educated at Henry VI. 's foundations at 
Eton and Cambridge, had been made by Cardinal Wolsey a 
junior canon of Cardinal College (afterwards Christ's Church), 
Oxford. Having imbibed the new heresies and got into 
trouble, he went abroad in 1528 and married. When More's 
book against Frith appeared. Frith wrote a book against the 
doctrine of purgatory, in which he attempts to reply not only 
to More, but to what the Bishop of Rochester (Fisher) and 
John Rastell, More's brother-in-law, had written on the same 
subject. He returned to England in 1532, was arrested upon a 
warrant of the chancellor (More), and committed to the 
Tower. He was allowed much liberty, and wrote a short 
treatise against the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Eucharist, of 
which several copies were made by his friends, three of which 
came into the hands of Sir Thomas, to which he made an 
answer. This answer is in the form of a letter to a friend, 
who had sent him the first copy. It is about a dozen folio 
pages, and is remarkable amongst all his polemical writings for 
its reserve and the almost compassionate tone in which he 
treats the misguided youth who has dared to attack the most 
august of mysteries. Frith had said that it was the philosophical 
impossibility of accepting the literal sense of Our Lord's words 
regarding the Eucharist that obliged him to interpret them in 
a figurative sense. More meets very candidly whatever argu- 

* End of second book against Tindale. English Works, p. 443. 


ments he had advanced, but at the same time he says that if the 
faith of the whole Cathohc Church is to be set aside in this 
way, " I were able myself to find out [i.e., to invent] fifteen 
new sects in one forenoon, that should have as much probable 
hold of Scripture as this heresy has ". * 

Frith had compared the Holy Eucharist to a ring given by a 
husband to his wife for a remembrance, when going to a far 
country. More allows the comparison, but adds that Frith 
himself is like " a man to whom a bridegroom had delivered 
a goodly gold ring with a rich ruby therein, to deliver over to 
his bride for a token, and then he would like a false shrew, 
keep away that gold ring and give the bride in the stead thereof 
a proper ring of a rush,t and tell her that the bridegroom 
would send her no better ; or else like one that when the bride- 
groom had given such a gold ring to his bride for a token, 
would tell her plain and make her believe that the ring were 
but copper or brass to minish the bridegroom's thanks ".J 

V. " The Apology ". 

After More had resigned the chancellorship he wrote a book 
called T/ie Apology. Certain things had been objected against 
his writings. One was their extreme length. He replies that 
" every way seemeth long to him that is weary ere he begin, 
but I find some men again, to whom the reading is so far from 
tedious, that they have read the whole book over thrice, and 
some that make tables thereof for their own remembrance. 
But the objectors will, if they be reasonable men, consider in 
themselves that it is a shorter thing and sooner done to write 
heresies than to answer them. For the most foolish heretic in 

• English Works, p. 836. 

t Pretended or mock marriages were sometimes made with rush- 
rings (Brand). 

* lb., p. 835. More did not immediately publish this letter, but he had it 
printed for distribution, to those who had read Frith's tract [English 
Works, p. 904). \ year later he gave it to the public. 


a town may write more false heresies in one leaf than the 
wisest man in the whole world can well and conveniently by 
reason and authority confute in forty. * But greatly can I 
not marvel, though these evangelical brethren think my works 
too long. For everything think they too long that aught is. 
Our Lady's psalter [the rosary] think they too long by all the 
Ave Maries and some good piece of the Creed too. Then the 
Mass think they too long by the secrets, and the canon, and all 
the collects wherein mention is made either of saints or souls. 
Instead of a long porteous [breviary], a short primer shall 
serve them ; and yet the primer think they too long by all 
Our Lady's matins. And the seven psalms think they long 
enough without the litany ; and as for dirge or commemoration 
for their friends' souls, all that service think they too long by 
altogether." t 

Another complaint had been made that More used opprob- 
rious words, and the example was quoted against him of an 
anonymous Catholic writer called the Pacifier, who treated his 
opponents gently. More replies : " I cannot say nay, but that 
is very truth. Howbeit every man hath not the like wit, nor 
like inventions in writing. For he findeth many proper ways 
of uttering evil matter in good words, which I never thought 
upon, but am a simple plain body, much like the Macedonians, 
for whom Plutarch writeth that King Philip, their master, made 
a reasonable excuse. For when they were in the war, some of 
their enemies fled from their own king and came into King 
Philip's service against iheir own country. With whom when 
the Macedonians fell sometimes at words, as it often happeneth 
among soldiers, the Macedonians in spite would call them 
traitors. Whereupon they complained to King Philip, and 
made the matter sore and grievous, that whereas they had not 
only left their own native country but did also fight against it 
and help to destroy it for the love and service they had towards 

* English Works, p. 847. f lb., p. 848. 


him, his own people letted not, in anger and despite, to call 
them false traitors. Whereupon King Philip answered them : 
' Good fellows, I pray you be not angry with my people, but 
have patience. I am sorry that their manner is no better. 
But I wis ye know^ them well enough ; their nature is so plain, 
and their utterance so rude, that they cannot call a horse but a 
horse.' And in good faith, like those good folk am I. For 
though Tindale and Frith in their w^-itings call me a poet, it is 
but of their own courtesy, undeserved on my part. For I can 
neither so much poetry, nor so much rhetoric neither, as to 
find good names for evil things, but even as the Macedonians 
could not call a traitor but a traitor, so can I not call a fool 
but a fool, nor a heretic but a heretic." * 

But he then compares seriously his ow^n freedom of speech 
with the abuse these man poured out on the whole Catholic 
Church. " For they say that this eight hundred years all the 
corps of Christendom hath been led out of the right way from 
God, and have lived all in idolatry and died in the service of 
the devil, because they have done honour to Christ's Cross, 
and prayed unto saints, and reverenced their relics, and 
honoured their images, and been baptised in Latin, and taken 
matrimony for a sacrament, and used confession and done 
penance for sins, and prayed for all Christian souls, and been 
anealed in their deathbed, and have taken their housel after the 
rite and usage of the Church, and have set more by the Mass 
than they should do, and believed that it was a sacrifice, a 
host, and an oblation, and that it should do them good ; and 
have believed that there was neither bread nor wine in the 
Blessed Sacrament of the altar, but instead of bread and wine 
the very Body and Blood of Christ. 

"And these things, say Tindale and Barns both, be very 
false belief and great damnable sin in the doing, and so damn 
they to the devil the whole Catholic Church, both temporal and 

* English Works, p. S64. {Apology, ch. ix.) 


spiritual, and (except heretics) leave not one man for God's 
part this eight hundred years past, by their own limitation; and 
of truth, if these false heresies were true, not in the other seven 
hundred before that neither. 

" Now, when that against all the whole Catholic Church, both 
that now is and that ever before hath been from the Apostle's 
days hitherto, both temporal and spiritual, laymen and religious, 
and against all that good is, saints, ceremonies, service of God, 
the very sacraments and all, and most against the best, that is 
to wit, the precious Body and Blood of Our Saviour Himself 
in the holy sacrament of the altar, these blasphemous heretics 
in their ungracious books, so villainously jest and rail ; were 
not a man, ween you, very far overseen, and worthy to be 
counted discourteous, that would, in writing against their 
heresies, presume without great reverence to rehearse their 
worshipful names ? 

" If any of them use their words at their pleasure, as evil 
and as villainous as they list, against myself, I am content to 
forbear any requiting thereof, and give them no worse words 
again, than if they speak me fair. For all shall be one to me, 
or rather the worse the better. For the pleasant oil of heretics 
cast upon mine head can do my mind no pleasure, but contrari- 
wise, the worse that such folk write of me, for hatred that they 
bear to the Catholic Church and faith, the greater pleasure, as 
for my own part, they do me. But surely their railing against 
all other I purpose not to bear so patiently, as to forbear to 
let them hear some part of like language as they speak. How- 
beit utterly to match them therein, I neither can though I 
would, nor will neither though I could ; but am content, as I 
needs must, to give them therein the mastery, wherein to match 
them were more rebuke than honesty." * 

More had also been accused that he treated Tindale, Barns, 
and Frith, as if they were wanting in talent and learning. 
To this, he replies that he had never called in question their 

* English Works, p. 865. 


ability, but asserted that it appeared to small advantage in 
their works, which was probably owing to the badness of their 
cause. If they were really as learned and clever as their 
followers boasted, it must be admitted that God had shown 
His indignation in causing them to write so foolishly ; and in 
this, he adds, they have been treated with more severity than 
the fallen angels, who in their fall retain their natural gifts. 
This gives occasion to a bit of delicate banter about devils, 
ladies, and heretics, which is so characteristic of More's genius, 
that I must transcribe it : — 

" Father Alphonse,* the Spanish friar, told me that the devils 
be no such deformed, evil-favoured creatures as men imagine 
them, but they be in mind proud, envious, and cruel. And 
he bade me, that if I would see a very right image of a fiend, 
I should no more but even look upon a very fair woman that 
hath a very shrewd,t fell, cursed mind. And when I showed 
him that I never saw none such, nor wist not where I might 
any such find, he said he could find four or five ; but I cannot 
believe him. Nor verily no more can I believe that the fiends 
be like fair shrewd women, if there were any such. Nor, as 
the world is, it were not good that young men should ween so, 
for they be so full of courage, that were the fiends never so 
cursed, if they thought them like fair women, they would never 
fear to adventure upon them once. Nor, to say the truth, 
no more can I believe neither that the damned spirits have 
all their natural gifts as whole and as perfect as they had before 
their fall, liut surely if they have, then God hath on Tindale, 
Barns, and Frith, and those other heretics, more showed His 
vengeance in some part than He did upon the devil. For in 
good faith God hath, as it seemeth, from these folk taken away 
the best part of their wits."| 

* Perhaps Alphonso de Castro, the emperor's confessor and a learned 
writer — but more probably another Father Alphons6s, also a minorite, 
who was confessor to Queen Katharine. 

t Shrewd — i.e., shrewish, malicious. 

* English Works, p. 863. 


The Apology was written by More, not so much to defend 
his own polemical style as to answer accusations that had been 
made against the clergy as regards their treatment of heretics. 
This had been done especially by the writer, who is called by 
More the Pacifier, because his professed object was to allay the 
quarrel that was springing up between the clergy and the laity. 
But his mode of pacifying was, according to Sir Thomas, like 
that of a man who should step in between two combatants, 
and putting one of them gently back with his hand, should 
commence to buffet the other about the face; "some men 
would say (I suppose), that he had as lieve his enemy were 
let alone with him, and thereof abide the adventure, as 
have such a friend step in to part them ".* Though the 
Pacifier must have been a clergyman, yet it is the clergy who 
receive all the buffets at his hand, and that too without 
distinct charges, but with repetition of every kind of malicious 
gossip, brought in with a "Some say" or "They say". Of 
the principal of these accusations I have given some account 
in the preceding chapter. 

VI. " Debellation of Salem and Bizance ". 

More's Apology came out in the spring of 1533. He heard 
that several opponents were busily engaged in elaborating 
answers, to which he thus laughingly refers : " Like as a 
husband, whose wife were in her travail, hearkeneth and would 
fain hear good tidings, so, since I so much heard of so sore 
travail of so many, I longed of their long labour to see some 
good speed, and some of those fair babes born. And when 
these great hills had thus travailed long, from the week after 
Easter till as much afore Michaelmas, the good hour came on 
as God would that one was brought a-bed with sore labour at 
last delivered of a dead mouse. The mother is yet but green, 
good soul, and hath need of good keeping ; women wot what 
caudle serveth against her after-throes."t It must be pardoned 

* Apology, ch. xiii., English Works, p. 872. t lb., p. 930. 


More's adversaries if they made a sorry pun upon his name, 
and called him " Master Mock,"* for certainly all men cannot 
relish jests at their own expense as More is said to have done. 
The " dead mouse " to which he here alludes was written by 
the Pacifier, or Sir John Somesay, as More calls him, and 
whom he had handled rather sharply in his Apology. His book 
was in the form of a dialogue, and called Salem and Bizaftce. 
In less than a month More's answer was printed, called The 
Debellacion of Salem afid Bizance. I need here say no more 
than that it should be consulted by those who would wish to 
see the treatise of a clever man, and learned lawyer, on the 
ancient ecclesiastical and civil processes against heresy. 

VII. Answer to "Supper of the Lord". 
Nor will I delay upon the last of the series of More's contro- 
versial works, his answer to a book called The Supper of the 
Lord. After the death of Frith, a book of his on the 
Eucharist, written in answer to More's letter on the same sub- 
ject, was being printed on the Continent, and was daily expected 
in England in August, i533,t when another book appeared, 
without author's name, but written, as More thought, either by 
William Tindale or George Jay.:|: ^Nlore intended his answer 
to consist of two parts, but the troubles that fell on him early 
in 1534 prevented his composing the second part. The first 
is in five books, and is mainly a scriptural exposition of the 
sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel. On no subject could he 
write more gladly and feelingly than on that mystery which had 
been so dear to him from his boyhood. 

Section III. Some Remarks. 
I . Among the various points of Christian faith controverted in 

* English Works, p. 1037. 
+ lb., p. 1046. 

* The author is called by More " The Masker ". He is now known to 
have been Tindale. 


the sixteenth century, there is one of which there is httle 
mention in Sir Thomas More's English works, one which he 
may be said to have studiously avoided- — that of the supremacy 
of the Roman Pontiff; and yet for this, and not for any of 
those articles on which he had written so copiously, was he 
destined to die. We have seen how clearly he stated his belief 
in his book against Luther in 1523. His belief had not varied 
in the six or seven years devoted to the defence of the Church 
in the English tongue ; but there were good reasons for 
avoiding this topic. 

It must be remembered that, during the whole of this 
period, Henry VHI. was the main obstacle to the spread of the 
Eutheran heresy in England. With the exception (perhaps) of 
conniving at Fish's ]3amphlet — the Supplication of Beggars — 
Henry was more zealous even than the bishops in suppressing 
heretical books. It was therefore of great importance to More 
in no w^ay to irritate or alienate him. Now, although the king 
had not committed any overt act of formal schism while More 
was writing, he was engaged on his divorce, which brought him 
into collision with the Sovereign Pontiff. It was simple 
prudence in More to keep aloof the question of the nature and 
extent of the Pope's authority, until the passions of the king 
were again calmed, and would allow him to take up his old 
position as the foremost champion of the Pope in Europe, 

It has been said by some that Sir Thomas More did not 
consider the supremacy of the Pope as being essential to the 
Catholic Church. The only ground for this assertion is his 
ow^n remark that he made no mention of the Pope in his de- 
finition of the Church. Tindale, professing to answer More's 
Dialogue^ placed the following words as the title of one of his 
chapters : " Whether the Pope and his sect be Christ's Church 
or no". In his reply to Tindale, More writes as follows : " I 
have, in places enough, well and plainly declared, that I call 
the Church of Christ ' the Catholic known Church of all 
Christian nations, neither gone out nor cut off'. And albeit 


all these nations now do and long have recognised and acknow- 
ledged the Pope, not as the Bishop of Rome but as the suc- 
cessor of St. Peter, to be their chief spiritual governor under 
God, and Christ's vicar on earth ; yet did I never put the Pope 
for part of the definition of the Church, defining the Church to 
be ' the common known congregation of all Christian nations 
under one head, the Pope '. Thus did I never define the 
Church, but purposely declined therefrom, because I would not 
intricate and entangle the matter with two questions at once 
. . . since if he be the necessary head he is included in the 
name of the whole body, and whether he be or not, if it be 
brought in question, were a matter to be treated and disputed 

It is a strange thing that, because a writer refuses to assume 
a point in carrying on a controversy, or to complicate a con- 
troversy by introducing a matter that will entail dispute, and is 
therefore content with a serviceable definition abstracting from 
the point in question, he should be represented as admitting 
that the point is unessential. 

The words Papist and Popish had been very early imported 
into the Lutheran controversy, and were used where there was 
not the most distant reference to the Pope. More calls this a 
mere spiteful nickname, since the matters denied by the heretics 
were held unanimously by the ancient doctors whom they had 
not yet learnt to call Papists. If, however, they are willing to 
include those holy doctors under the name of Papist, which 
they count odious, no wise man will be ashamed of it.f When 
the Masker taunted More with his zeal " to stablish the Pope's 
kingdom," More replied : "What great cause should move me 
to bear that great affection to the Pope as to feign all these 
things for stabHshment of his kingdom ? He thinketh that 
every man knoweth'already that the Pope is my godfather, and 
goeth about to make me a cardinal.":}: Such answers were 

* Eiiglisli Works, p. 615. t lb., p. noi. X I^-, P- 1120. 



sufficient for such writers and for the occasion. What senti- 
ments More entertained on the Divine government of the 
Church will be seen in a future chapter. 

2. It would be a curious and interesting study to gather from 
the various writings of Sir Thomas More, Latin and English, what 
he considered to be the principal causes of the rapid spread of 
heresy in his day, in England and elsewhere. Such a study, 
however, would belong rather to the history of his times than 
to that of his life. Two passages I am about to quote bear 
on this subject, but I choose them rather to illustrate his amus- 
ing style and his insight into character : — 

'' A certain priest, as it was said, after that he fell from the 
study of the law, wherein he was a proctor and partly well 
learned, unto the study of Scripture, he was very fearful and 
scrupulous, and began at the first to fall into such a scrupulous 
holiness, that he reckoned himself bound so straitly to keep 
and observe the words of Christ after the very letter, that be- 
cause our Lord biddeth us when we will pray enter into 
our chamber and shut the door to us, he thought it there- 
fore sin to say his service abroad, and always would be sure 
to have his chamber door shut unto him when he said his 
matins. Howbeit, I tell you not this thing for any great hurt 
in the man, for it was more peevish and painful than evil and 
sinful. But surely men say that, in conclusion, with the weari- , 
ness of that superstitious fear and servile dread, he fell as far to 
the contrary ; and under pretext of love and liberty waxed so 
drunk of the ' new must ' of lewd lightness of mind and 
vain gladness of heart, w^hich he took for spiritual consolation, 
that whatsoever himself listed to take for good, that thought he 
forthwith approved by God. And so framed himself a faith, 
framed himself a conscience, framed himself a devotion, wherein 
him list, and wherein him liked he set himself at liberty.* 

* Of scrupulosity leading to license More had a domestic example in 
Roper. Luther's revolt and whole system of theology may be traced to 
the same cause. Latimer's history is another illustration. 


" * And if it so were,' quoth your friend, 'then ye see^ lo! what 
Cometh of this saying of service.' 

"'Of saying service!' quoth I; 'that is much hke as at 
Beverley late, when much of the people being at a bear-baiting, 
the church fell suddenly down at evensong time, and over- 
whelmed some that then were in it ; a good fellow, that after 
heard the tale told, "Lo!" quoth he, "now may you see what 
it is to be at evensong, when ye should be at the bear baiting ". 
Howbeit, the hurt was not there in being at evensong, but in 
that the church was falsely wrought. So was in him or any 
man else none harm but good in saying of Divine service, but 
the occasion of harm is in the superstitious fashion that their 
own folly joineth thereunto, as some think they say it not, but 
if they say every psalm twice.' 

'"In faith,' quoth your friend, 'then if I were as he, I would 
mumble it up apace, or else say none at all.' 

"'That were as evil,' quoth I, 'on the other side. There is a 
mean may serve between both.' 

" 'Yea,' quoth he, 'but wot ye what the wife said that com- 
plained to her gossip of her husband's frowardness. She said 
her husband was so wayward that he would never be pleased. 
For if his bread, quoth she, be dough-baked, then is he angry. 
Marry, no marvel, quoth her gossip. Marry, and wot ye 
what, gossip? quoth she, and if I bake it all to hard coals, 
yet is he not content neither, by Saint James. No, quoth 
her gossip, ye should bake it in a mean. In a mean! quoth 
she, marry, I cannot happen on it. And so in a pair of 
matins,* it is much work to happen on the mean. And then 
to say them too short is lack of devotion, and to say them too 

* A popular use of the word pair. They said a pair of beads, of stairs, 
of cards, where we say a string, a flight, a pack. A|pair of matins, either 
because matins comprises many psalms and prayers, or because in addi- 
tion to matins of the day, matins of Our Lady or of the dead were often 


seriously is somewhat superstitious ; and therefore the best way 
were, to my mind, to say none at alh' 

'' ' Yea,' quoth I, ' but then is God as wayward a husband, as 
ye spake of, that will neither be content with His bread burned 
to coals, nor dough-baken neither ? ' 

" 'By Our Lady,' quoth he, 'but be He contented or not, I 
ween He hath much dough-baken bread among. For the 
matins, I tell you, be in some places sungen faster than I can 
say them.' 

"'Peradventure,' quoth I; 'so were it need, for if they should 
sing matins no faster than ye say them, they should I ween 
sing very few matins in a year.' 

" 'In faith,' quoth he, 'and some that say them make me to 
doubt uiuch, whether the bees in their hives use to say matins 
among them ; for even such a buzzing they make.' 

" ' Surely,' quoth I, ' that is as true as it is evil done.' " * 

From the above it will be seen that Sir Thomas was not in- 
clined to hide the abuses or deficiencies on the Catholic side. 
Let us hear now what he thought of the Protestant preaching 
of his day. He had been saying that the new teachers in 
Saxony denounced all bodily affliction as mere superstition. 
Even " heaviness of heart and weeping for our sins, this they 
reckon shame almost and womanish peevishness. Howbeit 
(thanked be God) their women wax there now so mannish, that 
they be not so peevish, nor so poor in spirit, but that they can 
sin on as men do, and be neither afraid, nor ashamed, nor 
weep for their sins at all. And surely I have marvelled much 
the less ever since that I heard the manner of their preachers 
there. For as you remember, when I was in Saxony, t these 
matters were in a manner but in a mammering, nor Luther was 
not then wed yet, nor religious men out of their habit, but 

* English Works, p. 208. 

t More never was in Saxony. He is putting these words in the mouth 
of a supposed Hungarian. The sermon described by More must have 
been heard by himself in England. 


suffered were those that would be of the sect freely to preach 
what they would unto the people. 

" And forsooth I heard a rehgious man myself, one that had 
been reputed and taken for very good, and which, as far as the 
folk perceived, was of his own living somewhat austere and 
sharp. But his preaching was wonderful — methink I hear 
him yet — his voice was so loud and shrill, his learning less than 
mean. But whereas his matter was much part against fasting, 
and all affliction for any penance, which he called men's inven- 
tions, he cried ever out upon them to keep well the laws of 
Christ, let go their peevish penance, and purpose then to mend, 
and seek nothing to salvation but the death of Christ. ' For 
He is our justice, and He is our Saviour, and our whole satis- 
faction for all our deadly sins. He did full penance for us all 
upon His painful Cross, He washed us there all clean with the 
water of His sweet side, and brought us out of the devil's 
danger with His dear precious blood. Leave, therefore, leave^ 
I beseech you, these inventions of men, your foolish Lenten 
fasts, and your peevish penance, minish never Christ's thank, 
nor look to save yourself. It is Christ's death, I tell you, that 
must save us all ; Christ's death I tell you yet again, and not 
your own deeds. Leave your own fasting, and lean to Christ 
alone, good Christian people, for Christ's dear bitter Passion.' 

•'Now, so loud and so shrill he cried Christ in their ears, 
and so thick he came forth with Christ's bitter Passion, and 
that so bitterly spoken, with the sweat dropping down his 
cheeks, that I marvelled not though I saw the poor women 
weep, for he made my own hair stand upon my head. And 
with such preaching were the people so brought in, that some 
fell to break their fasts on the fasting days, not of frailty or of 
malice first, but almost of devotion, lest they should take from 
Christ the thank of His bitter Passion. But when they were 
awhile nuzzelled in that point first, they could abide and endure 
after many things more, with which had he then begun they 
would have pulled him down. God amend that man, whatso- 



ever he be, and God keep all good folk from such manner of 
preachers ! Such one preacher much more abuseth the name 
of Christ and of His bitter Passion, than five hundred hazarders 
that in their idle business swear and forswear themselves by 
His holy bitter Passion at dice. They carry the minds of the 
people from the perceiving of their craft, by the continual 
naming of the name of Christ ; and crying His Passion so 
shrill into their ears, they forget that the Church hath ever 
taught them that all our penance without Christ's Passion were 
not worth a pease." * 

3. After the varied examples given in this chapter and else- 
where, no minute criticism can be necessary as to Sir Thomas 
More's literary style. But as I could only illustrate his work 
by detached fragments, I will conclude with one or two general 
remarks. Not one of his treatises is cast in a scientific form. 
They were intended, not as Burnet says, for " the rabble," but 
for the gentry of England. They are never merely didactic. 
The dialogue was More's favourite form, a preference he had 
probably derived from his study of Plato. In his first English 
controversial work, the Quoth He and Quoth /, as well as in 
his last devotional treatise, his Coinfort against Tribulation^ the 
speakers are fictitious and the style is very lively. In the other 
works the authors whom he is controverting are his partners 
in the dialogue ; for he does not merely refer to their arguments 
or give their substance, he quotes them in full. It is greatly 
owing to this that his treatises run to so great a length. But 
no one could complain that he was misrepresented, or even 
that his book was suppressed, since it appeared again in More's 
pages, though accompanied by its antidote. 

4. Another matter that could scarcely be gathered from the 
fragments I have quoted is More's deep learning in Holy 
Scripture. We have seen in his letter to Dorpius, written, be 
it remembered, some years before Luther's first appearance as 

* English Works, p. 1175. 


a reformer, how eagerly More upheld the study of Holy 
Scripture as the most fruitful occupation of a theologian. It 
had been his favourite study from his boyhood, and he was 
engaged on a commentary on the Gospel when his writing 
materials were taken from him in the Tower. On the other hand, 
nothing pained him more than to see souls deluded by fair but 
false pretences ; to see their reverence for Our Lord and His 
sacred Passion, and their belief in the inspiration of Holy 
Scripture — a reverence and a belief derived solely from the 
Holy Church — used as weapons against herself, by her own 
revolted and ungrateful priests. This consideration is very im- 
portant in judging of Sir Thomas More's character and action, 
since he has been often represented as an enemy of the Bible 
or of its diffusion, because he concurred in the suppression of 
Tindale's erroneous translation. His genuine sentiments may 
be seen from the following passages : — 

"Holy Scripture is the highest and best learning that any 
man can have, if one take the right way in the learning. It is, 
as a good holy saint saith, so marvellously tempered, that a 
mouse may wade therein, and an elephant be drowned therein. 
For there is no man so low, but if he will seek his way with the 
staff of his faith in his hand, and hold that fast and search the 
way therewith, and have the old holy fathers also for his guides, 
going on with a good purpose and a lowly heart, using reason 
and refusing no good learning, with calling of God for wisdom, 
grace, and help, that he may well keep his way and follow his 
good guides, then shall he never fall in peril, but well and 
surely wade through, and come to such end of his journey as 
himself would well wish. But surely if he be as long as 
Longinus, and have a high heart, and trust upon his own wit, 
look he never so lowly that setteth all the old holy fathers at 
nought, that fellow shall not fail to sink over the ears and 
drown. And of all wretches worst shall he walk, that forcing 
little * of the faith of Christ's Church, cometh to the Scripture 

* Making but slight account of. 


of God to look and try therein whether the Church beheve 
right or not. For either doubteth he whether Christ teach His 
Church true or else whether Christ teacheth it at all or not. 
And then he doubteth whether Christ in His words did say 
true, when He said He would be with His Church to the end 
of the world."* 

Elsewhere he writes of the misuse of Scripture by the 
preachers of his day : — 

" I have known right good wits that have set all other learn- 
ing aside, save the study of Scripture, partly for sloth, partly for 
pride, which affections their inward secret favour to them- 
selves cloaked under the pretext of simplicity and good 
Christian devotion. But in a little while after, the damnable 
spirit of pride, that unaware to themselves lurked in their 
hearts, hath begun to put out his horns and show himself. 
For then have they longed, under the praise of Holy Scripture, 
to set out to show their own study. Which, because they 
would have seem the more to be set by, they have first fallen 
to the dispraise and derision of all other disciplines. And 
because, in speaking or preaching of such common things as all 
Christian men knew, they could not seem excellent, therefore, 
marvellously they set out paradoxes and strange opinions 
against the common faith of Christ's whole Church. And thus 
once proudly persuaded a wrong way, they take the bridle in 
the teeth and run forth like a headstrong horse, that all the world 
cannot pluck them back. But, with sowing sedition and 
setting forth of errors and heresies, and spicing their preaching 
with rebuking of priesthood and prelacy, for the people's 
pleasure, they turn many a man to ruin, and themselves also. 
And then the devil deceiveth them in their blind affections. 
They take for good zeal to the people their malicious envy, and 
for a great virtue their ardent appetite to preach, wherein they 
have so great pride for the people's praise, that preach I ween 

* English Works, p. 162. 


they would, though God would with His own mouth command 
them the contrary. 

"And some have I seen, which, when they have for their 
perilous preaching been by their prelates prohibited to preach, 
have proceeded on still. And for maintenance of their dis- 
obedience have amended the matter with a heresy, boldly and 
stubbornly defending that, since they had cunning to preach, 
they were by God bound to preach, and that no man, nor no 
law that was made or could be made, had any authority to for- 
bid them ; and this they thought sufficiently proved by the 
words of the Apostles : ' We must obey God rather than men '. 
As though these men were Apostles, now specially sent by God 
to preach heresies and sow seditions among Christian men. 

" One of this new kind of preachers, being demanded why 
that he used to say in his sermons that now-a-days men preached 
not well the gospel, answered that he thought so because he 
.saw not the preachers persecuted, nor no strife nor business 
arise upon their preaching, which things he said and wrote was 
the fruit of the gospel, because Christ said : ' I am not come to 
send peace into the world but the sword'. Was not this a 
worshipful understanding, that because Christ would make a 
division among infidels, from the remnant of them to win some, 
therefore these apostles would sow some cockle of dissension 
among the Christian people, whereby Christ might lose some 
of them ? " * 

It had been the contention of Luther when asked whence 
he got his Bible, except from the Church, that the visible 
Church had indeed been divinely and infallibly guided to dis- 
tinguish between inspired and uninspired writings, to collect 
and to preserve the written word of God. Sir Thomas had 
replied that by the same divine guidance she distinguishes 
between divine and human traditions, divine sacraments and 
human ceremonies, and especially that if she can know which 

* lb., p. 150. 


is the true Scripture she must know which is the true sense of 
Scripture, since Our Lord wishes to preserve His Church, not 
from erring in one particular way, but from erring at all. * 
This argument he pursues at great length in his English works ; 
but he puts it all in a short and epigrammatic form in the fol- 
lowing words : " Since ye reckon Christ none otherwise present 
with His Church than in [/.^., by means of] Holy Scripture, 
doth He give His Church the right understanding of Holy 
Scripture or not? 'What if he do not?' quoth he. 'Marry,' 
quoth I, ' then yourself seeth well, that they were as well with- 
out. And so should the Scripture stand them in as good 
stead, as a pair of spectacles should stand a blind friar.' " t 

I will conclude this notice of More's controversial writings by 
the well-weighed judgment of one of the greatest of controversial 
theologians, Thomas Stapleton : — 

" In the English works of More, which I read through for 
the most part thirty years ago, I found him most thoroughly 
versed in the Holy Scriptures, and not unfamiliar with the 
Fathers and even with scholastic theology. He quotes, not 
frequently indeed, but appositely when necessary, Augustine, 
Jerome, Chrysostom, Cyril, Hilary, Bernard, Gerson. He 
himself, when placed on his defence, affirmed that for seven :{: 
years he had carefully read the Fathers to know their teaching 
as to the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. And though he was 
then intent only on one subject, who can doubt how many 
things a man of such talent and marvellous memory would note 
in passing regarding our present heresies ? Running my eye 
lately over many parts of his works, I have noticed that he had 
well studied dogmatic theology, so that when he touches on 
grace, free-will, merit, the nature and acts of faith, charity or 
other virtues, on original sin, even on predestination, he so 
manages his pen, and writes according to the rules of true 

^'' Rcspunsio ad LutJicruin, Lib. i. cap. g. 

\ English Works, p. 147. 

X The printed letter has seven, the original MS. ten. 


theology, that a professed theologian could hardly do it more 
accurately and fitly. 

" A proof that he studiously read St. Thomas is in a fact 
related by John Harris, his secretary. A book by some heretic, 
which had just been printed, was brought to More, and he read 
it as he was being rowed from his house to London. After a 
little he pointed with his finger to some places and said to 
Harris : ' See, the arguments of this rascal are precisely the 
objections placed by St. Thomas in such an article of the 
second question of his second part of the Summa. But the 
villain says nothing about the solutions made by the holy 
doctor to the objections.' I myself have seen a certain dis- 
putation between More and Father Alphonsus, a minorite, the 
confessor of Queen Catharine, in which the former maintains 
the opinion of Scotus about attrition and contrition, as more 
safe and more probable, against the opinion of Occam ; so that 
one cannot but marvel to see how a man, who throughout his 
life was immersed in civil and political matters, and was so* 
excellently versed in profane literature, had not merely dipped 
into theological and even scholastic questions, but made him 
self master of them." * 

iNIore's controversy with his pen in defence of the Catholic 
faith came to an end at Christmas, 1533. Henceforth we have 
to follow him in a controversy of a very different nature, not 
with heretics and communists, but with the " Defender of the 
Faith,'' and the despotic master of England. One matter con- 
nected with these writings must be mentioned in conclusion. 
Sir Thomas More's labours were in all respects disinterested. 
It is not easy to discover what were the relations in the first 
century after the invention of printing between authors and 
their publishers. It would seem, however, that the latter, who 
were also printers, binders, and booksellers, look all the cost 
and all the profit. They left the author a certain number of 
copies, which he might present to his friends and especially to 

* Vita, cap. 4. 


his patrons. In return for a dedication or the presentation of 
a book, the author would sometimes receive a gift in money, 
an office, or a benefice. There are no dedications prefixed to 
More's EngHsh works. It was, however, put about that More 
had become a wealthy man by means of his writings. In his 
Apology he enters on this matter fully, showing how small was 
his income from land or other source ; and that, except from 
the royal grants or salaries belonging to his offices, " not one 
groat " of his yearly revenue had come to him since he wrote 
his first book. He continues: "But then say the brethren 
that I have taken great rewards in ready money of divers of the 
clergy". He allows that a liberal offer had been made, "but 
(he says) I dare take God and the clergy to record, that they 
could never fee me with one penny thereof; but as I plainly 
told them I would rather have cast their money into the 
Thames than take it. For albeit they were good men and 
honourable, yet look I for my thanks of God that is their 
better, and for whose sake I take the labour and not for 
theirs. . . . Although they (the heretics) should call me 
Pharisee for the boast, and Pelagian for my labour, I am not 
fully so virtueless, but that of mine own natural disposition, 
Avithout any special peculiar help of grace thereto, I am both 
over proud and over slothful also, to be hired for money to take 
half the labour and business in writing, that I have taken in 
this gear since I began." * 

His son-in-law gives us further details. The clergy agreed 
to make up a sum of four or five thousand pounds at the least. 
The Bishops of Durham (Tunstall), Bath (Clark), and Exeter 
(Voysey), were charged to convey this present, and pressed it 
on him ; on his refusal, they urged him to bestow it on his 
wife and children. It was all to no purpose, and the money 
was restored to the subscribers. t 

* Apnlo'^y, ch. X. ; English Works, p. 867. 

t Roper's Notes, xiv. Sir J. Mackintosh remarks that " ;^50oo was 
a hundred times the amount of his income ; and according to the rate of 
interest at that time would have yielded him £soo a year". 


* This honourable testimonial had been offered probably soon 
after the resignation of the chancellorship in the summer of 
1532. Still more honourable to himself was his own conduct 
when chancellor, as related by Roper. The water-bailiff of 
London, who had formerly been in his service, heard certain 
merchants — probably those trafficking with Germany, and who 
were infested with Lutheranism — railing against More. He 
made it known to the chancellor, and begged him to punish 
their malice. Sir Thomas replied: "AVhy, Mr. Bailiff, would 
you have me punish them by whom I receive more benefit 
than by you that be my friends ? Let them, in God's name, 
tshoot never so many arrows at me ; as long as they do not hit 
me, what am I the worse ?"* 

A man who would neither receive recompense from his 
friends, nor resent injury from his enemies, was a worthy 
champion of the Catholic faith. 

* Roper, n. viii. 



THE subject of the last two chapters has somewhat inter- 
rupted the chronological course of this narrative, since 
it was necessary to group together matters extending 
over several years, both before, during and after More's chancel- 
lorship. The record of his literary labours has brought us to 
the period of his troubles, which begins with the year 1534. 
Even before his elevation he was full of anxiety, not on his 
own account, but for the evils he saw impending over the 
Church and over England. " Walking with me," writes Roper, 
"along the Thames' side at Chelsea, in talking of other things, 
he said to me : ' Now would to Our Lord, son Roper, upon 
condition that three things were well established in Chris- 
tendom, I were put in a sack and here presently cast into the 
Thames'. ' What great things be those, sir,' quoth I, 'that 
you should so wish?' 'In faith, son, they be these,' quoth 
he ; ' the first is, that whereas the most part of Christian 
princes be at mortal wars, they were all at universal peace. 
The second, that whereas the Church of Christ is at this present 
sore afflicted with many errors and heresies, it were settled in 
perfect uniformity of religion ; the third, that whereas the 
matter of the king's marriage is now come in question, it were 
to the glory of God and quietness of all parties brought to a 
good conclusion.'" Roper does not give the date of this 
conversation ; from the mention of war, it would seem to 


have been in 1528, before More's last embassy to Cambrai. 
He did his best to bring about peace from national strife, and 
to prevent the spread of heresy ; with regard to the divorce, 
as he could do no good, he prudently kept aloof. 

When he laid down the chancellorship, he had received the 
assurance from the king of his continued favour, but he had 
good reasons to distrust one so capricious and despotic, now 
carried forward by passion and surrounded by bad advisers. 
Roper tells us of the advice he gave to Thomas Cromwell. 
" INIr. Cromwell," said More, " you are now entered into the 
service of a most noble, wise, and liberal prince ; if you will 
follow my poor advice, you shall, in your counsel-giving to his 
Grace, ever tell him what he ought to do, but never what he 
is able to do ; for if the lion knew his own strength, hard were 
it for any man to rule him." Unfortunately, Cromwell did the 
very opposite, and became the evil genius of the king, finding 
prey for the lion, until at last he was himself devoured. During 
the later months of 1532 and the whole of 1533 Sir Thomas 
avoided Henry's court as much as possible, and gave himself 
to the composition of his books. He was, however, a careful 
observer, and while meditating his own course, was preparing for 
the worst. When the divorce was pronounced by Cranmer, 
Sir Thomas said to his son-in-law: "God grant, son, that 
these matters within a while be not confirmed with oaths ". 
At Pentecost, 1533, Anne Boleyn, who had been secretly 
married to the king before the pretended divorce, and after- 
wards publicly acknowledged as {jueen, made her magnificent 
entry into London for her coronation. More's holy friend, 
Fisher, had been arrested, and kept out of the way, for it was 
known he would take no part in such an act. It was, no 
doubt, supposed that Sir Thomas would not dare to absent 
himself. Yet this he did. The matter is thus related by 
Roper : " He received a letter from the Bishops of Durham, 
Bath, and Winchester (Tunstall, Clerk, and Gardiner), re- 
questing iiim both to keep their company from the Tower 



to the coronation, and also to take ;£^20 (that by the bearer 
4:hereof they had sent him), to buy him a gown ; which he 
thankfully receiving, still tarried at home. At their next 
meeting he said merrily : ' My lords, you required two things 
of me, the one I was so well content to grant, that I thought 
I might be the bolder to deny the other'. He then explained 
that he took the money because the bishops were rich and he 
was poor; but his reason for refusing the invitation he illus- 
trated by one of his merry tales, the moral of which was that 
the bishops were in danger of losing their honour first, and 
being afterwards destroyed, but as for himself, destroyed he 
might be, but dishonoured he was resolved he would not be. 

It was noticed in his family that he would now often speak 
of " the joys of heaven and the pains of hell, of the lives of the 
holy martyrs, of their marvellous patience, and what a happy 
and blessed thing it was for the love of God to suffer the loss of 
goods, of liberty, and even life. He would add that for himself, 
if he could perceive himself encouraged by his wife and children 
to die in a good cause, for joy thereof he would merrily run to 
death." * Notwithstanding this interior readiness to suffer, no 
one could be more cautious to give no unnecessary offence. 
Sir James Mackintosh remarks that " he most warily retired 
from every opposition but that which conscience absolutely 
required. He displayed that very peculiar excellence of his 
character, which, as it showed his submission to be the fruit 
of sense of duty, gave dignity to that which in others is apt to 
seem and to be slavish." f 

He had himself written as follows : " Our Lord advised 
J His disciples that if they were pursued in one city, they should 
not come forth and foolhardily put themselves in peril of denying 
Christ by impatience of some intolerable torments, but rather 
flee thence into some other place, where they might serve Him 
in quiet, till He should suffer them to' fall in such point that 
there were no way to escape. And then would He have them 

* Roper. t Life of More, p. 150. 



abide by their tackling like mighty champions, wherein they 
shall not in such case fail of His help."* 

It seems probable that Anne Boleyn, indignant at the slight 
offered her by More's absence from her coronation, and his 
known disapproval of the divorce, plotted either his humiliation 
or his ruin. 

About Christmas, 1533, a book or proclamation of nine 
articles was devised by the king's Council in justification of his 
marriage. The principal points were the following: — 

1. That Cranmer's judgment was founded on the decisions 

of the most famous universities and of the whole 
English clergy. 

2. That causes should not be removed from the country 
where they are initiated; and that parliament did not 
desire the inheritance of this realm to depend on the 
Bishop of Rome, by some men called Pope. 

4,5,6. That the General Council is superior to all bishops ; 
that any man, especially a prince, may appeal from the 
Bishop of Rome to the Council, and after his appeal 
may despise the Pope's censures. 

8. That bishops are bound to admonish before excom- 

municating; which course has been followed by ''our 
good Archbishop of Canterbury admonishing the king 
that he lived in unlawful matrimony ". 

9. That the Pope is by birth illegitimate, guilty of simony 
(at his election), and of heresy in refusing the king's 
appeal, f 

It seems that some pamphlet appeared in answer to the 
al)Ove proclamation, and i\Iore was suspected of being its 
author. His nephew, William Rastell, son of John Rastell 
and Elizabeth More, afterwards a lawyer and a judge, was at 
that time following his father's business of a publisher. He 
was called before the Council, and denied any knowledge of 
the book. This caused More to write the following letter to 

■* English Works, p. 278. t Letters and Papers, vii. i. 


Cromwell, at that time Master of the Jewel House and secretary 
to the king: — 

"Right Worshipful, — 

" In my most hearty wise I recommend me unto 


Sir, — My cousin,* William Rastell, hath informed me, that 
your mastership of your goodness sho\ved him that it hath been 
reported that I have, against the book of certain articles, which 
was late put forth in print by the king's honourable Council, 
made an answer, and delivered it unto my said cousin to print. 
And albeit that he for his part truly denied it, yet because he 
somewhat remained in doubt whether your mastership gave 
him therein credence or not, he desired me for his farther dis- 
charge to declare you the very truth. Sir, as help me God, 
neither my said cousin nor any man else never had any book 
of mine to print, one or other, since the said book of the king's 
Council came forth. For of truth the last book that he printed 
of mine was that book that I made against an unknown heretic, 
which hath sent over a work that walketh in over many men's 
hands, named the Supper of the Lord, against the Blessed 
Sacrament of the Altar. My answer w^hereunto, albeit that the 
printer, unware to me, dated it anno 1534, by which it seemeth 
to be printed since the Feast of the Circumcision, yet w^as it of 
very truth both made and printed, and many of them gone, 
before Christmas. And myself never espied the printer's over- 
sight in the date, in more than three weeks after. And this was 
in good faith the last book that my cousin had of mine. Which 
being true, as of truth it shall be found, sufficeth for his declara- 
tion in this behalf. 

" As touching my own self, I shall say thus much farther, that 

■* W. Rastell was Sir Thomas's nephew. Cousin {consaui^iiijicus) is a 
general term for kin. Nephew {ncpos) meant grandson or descendent in 
remote degree. More thus writes (p. 638): " Whether the old doctors, 
whom these men call grandfathers, or else these young new naughty 
nephews, be better to be believed*'. 


on my faith I never made any such book nor never thought to 
do. I read the said book [the proclamation] once over, and 
never more. But I am for once reading very far off from many 
things, whereof I would have meetly sure knowledge ere ever 
I would make an answer, though the matter and the book 
both concerned the poorest man in a town, and were of the 
simplest man's making too. For of many things which in that 
book be touched, in some I know not the law, and in some I 
know not the fact. And, therefore, would I never be so 
childish, nor so play the proud, arrogant fool, by whomsoever 
the book had been made, and to whomsoever the matter had 
belonged, as to presume to make an answer to the book, con- 
cerning the matter whereof I never was sufficiently learned in the 
laws, nor fully instructed in the facts. And then, while the 
matter pertained unto the king's Highness, and the book 
professeth openly that it was made by his honourable Council, 
and by them put in print with His Grace's license obtained 
thereto, I verily trust in good faith that, of your good mind 
towards me, though I never wrote you word thereof, yourself 
will both think and say so much for me, that it were a thing far 
unlikely that an answer should be made thereunto by me. 

" I will by the grace of Almighty God, as long as it shall 
please Him to lend me life in this world, in all such places as 
I am of my duty to God and the king's Grace bound, truly say 
my mind and discharge my conscience as becometh a poor, 
honest, true man, wheresoever I shall be by His Grace com- 
manded. Yet surely if it should happen any book to come 
abroad in the name of His Grace or his honourable Council, 
if that book to me seemed such as myself would not have given 
mine own advice to the making, yet I know my bounden duty 
to bear more honour to my prince, and more reverence to his 
honourable Council, than that it could become me for many 
causes to make an answer to such a book, or to counsel and 
advise any man else to do it. And, therefore, as it is a thing I 
never did nor intended, so I heartily beseech you, if you shall 


happen to perceive any man, either of evil will or of lightness, 
any such thing report by me, be so good master to me as 
help to bring us both together. And then never take me 
for honest after, but if you find his honesty somewhat impaired 
in the matter. Thus am I bold upon your goodness to 
encumber you with my long, rude letter, in the contents 
whereof I eftsoon heartily beseech you to be, in manner afore- 
said, good master and friend unto me ; whereby you shall 
bind me to be your bedes-man while I live, as knoweth Our 
Lord, whose especial grace both bodily and ghostly long 
preserve and keep you. 

"At Chelsea in the vigil of the Purification of Our Blessed 

L^^dy [1534], 

" By the hand of, 

"Assuredly all your own, 

"Thomas More, Knight."* 

* Englisli Works, p. 1422. Chelsea is written Chelchithe ; in other 
letters it is Chelsey. 



NO further mention occurs in any paper now extant of the 
charge related in the last chapter ; but in the mean- 
time another had been in preparation : a charge of mis- 
prision of treason, that is, of knowledge and concealment of 
treason in the matter of the Holy Maid of Kent. 

Very few words will be sufficient as an introduction to the 
letters that follow. Elizabeth Barton, a Kentish servant-maid, 
subject in her youth to falling sickness, was said to have been 
cured in a chapel of Our Lady, and had become a nun at 
Canterbury. She was supposed to receive revelations from 
God, and acquired so great a reputation that she was commonly 
spoken of as the Holy Maid of Kent. From the time the king's 
divorce from Queen Katharine was first mooted, her revelations 
took a political character ; she declared herself commissioned 
by God to admonish and to threaten the king if he persisted, 
and she visited, for the making known of these celestial warn- 
ings, not only her diocesan. Archbishop Warham, but Cardinal 
Wolseyand Henry himself. At last, in the autumn of 1533, she 
was supposed to be the tool of a party opposed to the divorce, 
and was arrested and examined, together with some Benedictine 
monks, some Observant Franciscan friars, some secular priests 
and laymen. Of the truth of the accusations made against her 
and them we need not inquire. It is well-known that several, 
amongst whom was the Blessed John Fisher, Bishop ofRoches- 



ter, were attainted of misprision of treason, and several others, 
including the nun, of treason, and that these were executed at 
Tyburn on 21st April, 1534. I shall here confine myself to 
what regards Sir Thomas More.* 

From documents lately published it appears that it was Crom- 
well who, without a vestige of evidence and in the face of 
evidence to the contrary, sought to include More in a matter 
from which he had with the utmost circumspection kept him- 
self free. Father Hugh Rich, one of the accused Franciscans, 
stated in reply to interrogations : " He confesseth that he hath 
shewed other revelations to Sir T. More, but none concerning 
the king, for he would not hear them". This passage was 
struck through, and the name of More inserted by Cromwell 
himself among those to whom the revelations about the king 
were made known. f The Notes or Remembrances kept by 
Cromwell were seized at his attainder and are still in existence, 
betraying his action day by day. In January, 1534, we find: 
"To cause indictments to be drawn up for the offenders in 
treason and misprision concerning the nun of Canterbury " ; :|: 
and " Eftsoons to remember Master More to the king ". § 
Another document, which is too mutilated to give us any 
positive information, shows how evidence was being sought 
against More, as regards his domestic conversation. || 

The following letter gives a minute statement of all the 
action of Sir Thomas in the matter. It bears no date, but it 
alludes to the confession of the nun at St. Paul's Cross, which 
was on 23rd November, 1533, and was written before the bill 
of attainder was brought into parliament in the middle of the 
following February. The letter is addressed to Cromwell : — 

* I have entered into more detail and discussed Blessed John Fisher's 
share in this matter in my Life of Fisher, 
f Letters and Papers, vi. 1468. 
Xlb., vii. 48. 
§J&.,5o, 108. 
11/6., 290. 

the holy maid of kent. 323 

" Right Worshipful, — 

" After my most hearty recommendation, with hke 
thanks for your goodness, in accepting of my rude, long letter. 
I perceive, that of your further goodness and favour towards 
me, it liked your mastership to break with my son Roper, of 
that, that I had had communication not only with divers that 
were of acquaintance with the lewd * nun of Canterbury, but 
also with herself; and had, over that, by my writing, declaring 
favour towards her, given her advice and counsel ; of which 
my demeanour, that it liketh you to be content to take the 
labour and the pain to hear, by mine own writing, the truth, I 
very heartily thank you, and reckon myself therein right deeply 
beholden to you. 

" It is, I suppose, about eight or nine years ago since I heard 
of that housewife 1 first ; at which time the Bishop of Canter- 
bury that then was (God assoil his soul) sent unto the king's 
Grace a roll of paper, in which were written certain words of 
hers, that she had, as report was then made, at sundry times 
spoken in her trances ; whereupon it pleased the king's Grace 
to deliver me the roll, commanding me to look thereon, and 
afterwards show him what I thought therein, Whereunto, at 
another time, when His Highness asked me, I told him, that in 
good faith I found nothing in these words that I could any 
thing regard or esteem ; for seeing that some part fell in 
rhythm, and that, God wot, full rude also, for any reason, 
God wot, that I saw therein, a right simple woman might, in 
my mind, speak it of her own wit well enough. Howbeit, I 
said, that because it was constantly reported for a truth, that 
God wrought in her, and that a miracle was shewed upon her, 
I durst not, nor would not, be bold in judging the matter. 

* The word "lewd " in the sixteenth century had not the definite mean- 
ing now attached to it. It was a contemptuous epithet for one who 
was ignorant, cunning, or malicious. 

t A contemptuous term ; a hussy. 


And the king's Grace, as me thought, esteemed the matter as 
Hght as it after proved lewd. 

"From that time till about Christmas was twelvemonth, 
albeit that continually there was much talkmg of her, and of her 
holiness, yet never heard I any talk rehearsed, either of revela- 
tion of hers, or miracle, saving that I heard say divers times, 
in my lord cardinal's days, that she had been both with his 
lordship and with the king's Grace, but what she said, either to 
the one or to the other, upon my faith I had never heard any 
one word. Now, as I was about to tell you, about Christmas 
was twelvemonth, Father Risby, Friar Observant, then of 
Canterbury, lodged one night at mine house ; where, after 
supper, a little before he went to his chamber, he fell in com- 
munication with me of the nun, giving her high commendation 
of holiness, and that it was wonderful to see and understand 
the works that God wrought in her ; which thing, I answered, 
that I was very glad to hear it, and thanked God thereof. Then 
he told me that she had been with my lord legate in his life, 
and with the king's Grace too ; and that she had told my lord 
legate a revelation of hers, of three swords that God had put 
in my lord legate's hand, which if he ordered not well God 
would lay it sore to his charge. The first, he said, was the 
ordering the spirituality under the Pope, as legate. The 
second, the rule that he bore in order of the temporalty under 
the king, as his chancellor. And the third, she said, was the 
meddling he was put in trust with by the king, concerning the 
great matter of his marriage. And therewithal I said unto 
him, that any revelation of the king's matters I would not hear 
of; I doubt not that the goodness of God should direct His 
Highness with His grace and wisdom, that the thing should 
take such end as God should be pleased with, to the king's 
honour and surety of the realm. When he heard me say these 
words, or the like, he said unto me, that God had specially 
commanded her to pray for the king ; and forthwith he brake 
again into her revelations concerning the cardinal, that his soul 


was saved by her mediation ; and without any other com- 
munication went into his chamber. And he and I never talked 
any more of any such manner of matter, nor since his departing 
on the morrow I never saw him afterwards, to my remem- 
brance, till I saw him at St. Paul's Cross. 

" After this, about Shrovetide, there came unto me, a little 
before supper, Father Rich, Friar Observant of Richmond ; and 
as we fell in talking, I asked him of Father Risby, how he did ; 
and upon that occasion, he asked me, whether Father Risby had 
any thing showed me of the holy nun of Kent ; and I said, 
yea, and that I was very glad to hear of her virtue. ' I would 
not,' quoth he, 'tell you again that you have heard of him al- 
ready ; but I have heard, and known, many great graces that 
God hath wrought in her, and in other folks, by her, which I 
would gladly tell you, if I thought you had not heard them al- 
ready.' And therewith he asked me, whether Father Risby had 
told me anything of her being with my lord cardinal ; and I 
said, 'Yea'. 'Then he told you,' quoth he, 'of the three swords?' 
'Yea, verily,' quoth I. 'Did he tell you,' quoth he, 'of the revela- 
tions that she had concerning the king's Grace ?' 'Nay forsooth,' 
quoth I, ' nor if he would have done, I would not have given 
him a hearing ; nor verily no more I would indeed, for since 
she hath been with the king's Grace herself, and told him, me- 
thought it a thing needless to tell me, or to any man else.' And 
when Father Rich perceived that I would not hear her revela- 
tions concerning the king's Grace, he talked on a little of her 
virtue, and let her revelations alone ; and therewith my supper 
was set upon the board, where I required him to sit with me ; 
but he would in no wise tarry, but departed to London. After 
that night I talked with him twice, once in mine own house, 
another time in his own garden at the Friars, at every time a 
great space, but not of any revelations touching the king's 
Grace, but only of other mean folk, I knew not whom, of which 
things some were very strange, and some were very childish. 
But albeit that he said he had seen her lie in her trance in great 


pains, and that he had at other times taken great spiritual com- 
fort in her communication ; yet did he never tell me that she 
had told him those tales herself ; for if he had, I would, for the 
tale of Mary Magdalen which he told me, and for the tale of 
the hostie, with which, as I have heard, she said she was housled 
at the king's Mass at Calais — if I had heard it of him as told 
unto himself by her mouth for a revelation, I would have both 
liked him and her the worse. But whether ever I heard the 
same tale of Rich or of Risby, or of neither of them both, but 
of some other man since she was in hold, in good faith I can- 
not tell : but I wot well when or wheresoever I heard it, me- 
thought it a tale too marvellous to be true, and very likely that 
she had told some man her dream, which told it out for a reve- 
lation. And in effect I little doubted but that some of these 
tales that were told of her were untrue ; but yet, since I never 
heard them reported as spoken by her own mouth, I thought 
nevertheless that manyjof them might be true, and she a very 
virtuous woman too ; as some lies be peradventure written of 
some that be saints in heaven, and yet many miracles indeed 
done by them for all that. 

"After this, I being upon a day at Sion, and talking with the 
fathers together at the grate, they showed me that she had been 
with them, and showed me divers things that some of them 
misliked in her; and in this talking they wished that I had 
spoken with her, and said they would fain see how I should 
like her. Whereupon, afterwards, when I heard that she was 
there again, I came thither to see her, and to speak with her 
myself. At which communication had, in a little chapel, there 
were none present but we two ; in the beginning whereof I 
showed that my coming to her was not of any curious mind, 
any thing to know of such things as folks talked that it pleased 
God to reveal and show unto her, but for the great virtue that 
I had heard so many years, every day more and more spoken 
and reported of lier; I, therefore, had a great mind to see her 
and be acquainted with her, that she might have somewhat the 


more occasion to remembe. me to Cxod in her devotion and 
prayers ; whereunto she gave me a very good, virtuous answer, 
that as God did of His goodness far better by her than she, a 
poor wretch, was worthy, so she feared that many folk, yet 
beside that, spoke of their own favourable minds many things 
for her, far above the truth, and that of me she had many such 
things heard, that already she prayed for me, and ever would ; 
whereof I heartily thanked her. I said unto her: 'Madam, one 
Helen, a maiden dwelling about Tottenham, of whose trances 
and revelations there hath been much talking, she hath been 
with me of late, and showed me that she was with you, and 
that after the rehearsal of such visions as she had seen, you 
showed her that they were no revelations, but plain illusions of 
the devil, and advised her to cast them out of her mind; and 
verily she gave therein good credence unto you, and thereupon 
hath left to lean any longer unto such visions of her own ; 
whereupon she saith she findeth your words true, for ever since 
she hath been the less visited with such things as she was wont 
to be before'. To this she answered me, 'F'orsooth, sir, there 
is m this point no praise unto me, but the goodness of God, as 
it appeareth, hath wrought much meekness in her soul, which 
hath taken my rude warning so well, and not grudged to hear 
her spirit and her visions reproved '. I liked her, in good faith, 
better for this answer, than for many of these things that I 
heard reported by* her. Afterwards she told me, upon that 
occasion, how great need folk have, that are visited with such 
visions, to take heed, and prove well of what spirit they come 
of; and in that communication she told me, that of late the 
devil, in likeness of a bird, was flying and fluttering about 
her in a chamber, and suffered himself to be taken ; and being 
in hands, suddenly changed, in their sight that were present, 
into such a strange, ugly-fashioned bird, that they were all 
afraid, and threw him out at a window. 

" For conclusion, we talked no word of the king's Grace, or 

* i.e., of her ; concerning her. 


any great personage else, nor in effect, of any man or woman, 
but of herself and myself; but after no long communication 
had, for or [ere] ever we met my time came to go home, I gave 
her a double ducat, and prayed her to pray for me and mine, 
and so departed from her, and never spake with her after. 
Howbeit, of a truth, I had a great good opinion of her, and had 
her in great estimation, as you shall perceive by the letter that 
I wrote unto her. For afterwards, because I had often heard 
that many right worshipful folks, as well men as w^omen, used 
to have much communication with her ; and many folk are of 
nature inquisitive and curious, whereby they fall som.etimes into 
such talking, and better were to forbear, of which thing I 
nothing thought w^hile I talked with her of charity ; therefore, I 
wrote her a letter thereof, which, since it may be, peradventure, 
that she brake* or lost, I shall insert the very copy thereof in 
this present letter. 

" These were the z>e?y words : — 

" ' Good Madam and my right dearly beloved Sister in our 
Lord God, 

" * After most hearty commendation, I shall beseech you to 
take my good mind in good worth, and pardon me, that I am 
so homely as of myself unrequired, and also without necessity, 
to give counsel to you, of whom for the good inspirations, and 
great revelations that it liketh Almighty God of His goodness 
to give and show, as many wise, well-learned, and very virtuous 
folk testify, I myself have need, for the comfort of my soul, to 
require and ask advice. For surely, good madam, since it 
pleased God sometime to suffer, such as are far under and of 
little estimation, to give yet fruitful advertisement to such other 
as are in the light of the Spirit so far above them, that there 
were between them no comparison — as He suffered His high 
prophet Moses to be in some things advised and counselled 

* i.e., tore up. 


by Jethro — I cannot, for the love that in Our Lord I bear you, 
refrain to put you in remembrance of one thing, which in my 
poor mind I think highly necessary to be by your wisdom 
considered, referring the end and the order thereof to God 
and His Holy Spirit to direct you. Good madam, I doubt 
not but that you remember that in the beginning of my 
communication with you I shewed you that I neither was, 
nor would be, curious of any knowledge of other men's matters, 
and least of all of any matter of princes, or of the realm, in 
case it so were that God had, as to many good folks before- 
time He hath, any time revealed unto you such things ; I 
said unto your ladyship, that I was not only not desirous to 
hear of, but also would not hear of Now, madam, I consider 
well that many folk desire to speak with you which are not 
all peradventure of my mind in this point ; but some hap to 
be curious and inquisitive of things that little pertain unto 
their parts; and some migt peradventure hap to talk of such 
things as might after turn to much harm ; as I think you have 
heard how the late Duke of Buckingham, moved with the 
fame of one that was reported for an holy monk, and had such 
talking with him, as after was a great part of his destruction, 
and disheriting of his blood, and great slander and infamy of 
religion.* It sufificeth me, good madam, to put you in 
remembrance of such things as I nothing doubt your wisdom 
and the Spirit of God shall keep you from talking with any 
person, specially with high persons, of any such manner things 
as pertain to princes' affairs, or the state of the realm, but only 
to commune and talk with any person, high and low, of any 
such manner things as may to the soul be profitable for you 
to show, and for them to know. And thus, my good lady 
and dearly beloved sister in Our Lord, I make an end of this 
my needless advertisement unto you, whom the Blessed Trinity 
preserve and increase in grace, and put in your mind to 
recommend me and mine unto Him in your devout prayers. 
* Executed in May, 1521, on a charge of treason. 


" ' At Chelsey, this Tuesday, by the hand of your hearty 
loving brother and beadsman, 

'"Thomas More, Kt.' 

" At the receipt of this letter, she answered my servant that 
she heartily thanked me : soon after this there came to mine 
house the prior of the Charterhouse at bhene, and one Brother 
Williams with him, who nothing talked to me but of her, and 
of the great joy that they took in her virtue, but of any of her 
revelations they had no communication. But at another time 
Brother Williams came to me, and told me a long tale of her, 
being at the house of a knight in Kent, that was sore troubled 
with temptations to destroy himself; and none other thing we 
talked of, nor should have done of likelyhood, though we had 
tarried together much longer, he took so great pleasure, good 
man, to tell the tale, with all the circumstances at length. 
When I came again another day to Sion, on a day in which 
there was a profession, some of the fathers asked me how I 
liked the nun. And I answered that, in good faith, I liked her 
very well in her talking ; ' howbeit,' quoth I, ' she is never the 
nearer tried by that ; for I assure you, she were likely to be 
very bad, if she seemed good, ere I should think her other, till 
she happened to be proved naught ' ; and in good faith, that is 
my manner indeed, except I were set to search and examine the 
truth upon likelihood of some cloaked evil ; for in that case^ 
although I nothing suspected the person myself, yet no less than 
if I suspected him sore, I would, as far as my wit would serve 
me, search to find out the truth, as yourself hath done very 
prudently in this matter ; wherein you have done, in my mind, 
to your great laud and praise, a very meritorious deed, in 
bringing forth to light such detestable hypocrisy ; whereby 
every other wretch may take warning, and be feared to set forth 
their own devilish, dissembled falsehood, under the manner 
and colour of the wonderful work of God ; for verily, this 
woman so handled herself, with help of that evil spirit hath 


inspired her, that after her own confession declared at 
Paul's Cross,* Avhen I sent word by my servant unto the 
Prior of the Charterhouse, that she was undoubtedly proved a 
false, deceiving hypocrite, the good man had had so good 
opinion of her so]long, that he could at the first scantly believe 
me therein. Howbeit it was not he alone that thought her so 
very good, l)ut many another right good man besides, as little 
marvel was upon so good report, till she was proved naught. 

" I remember me further, that in communication between 
Father Rich and me, I counselled him, that in such strange 
things as concerned such folk as had come unto her, to whom, 
as she said, she had told the causes of their coming ere 
themselves spake thereof, and such good fruit as they said that 
many men had received by her prayer, he and such other so 
reported it, and thought that the knowledge thereof should much 
pertain to the glory of God, should first cause the things to be 
well and sure examined by the ordinaries, and such as had 
authority thereunto ; so that it might be surely known whether 
the things were true or not, and that there were no letters 
intermingled among them, or else the letters might after hap 
to aweigh the credence of these things that were true. And 
when he told me the tale of Mary Magdalen, I said unto him : 
' Father Rich, that she is a good, virtuous woman, in good faith, 
I hear so many good folk so report, that I verily think it true ; 
and think it well-likely that God worketh some good and great 
things by her ; but yet are, you wot well, these strange tales no 
part of our creed ; and, therefore, before you see them surely 
proved, you shall have my poor counsel, not to wed yourself 
so far forth to the credence of them as to report them very 
surely for true, lest that if it should hap that they were after- 
wards proved false it might minish your estimation in your 
preaching, whereof might grow great loss'. To this he thanked 
me for my counsel, but how he used it after that I cannot tell. 

* On 23rd November, 1533. 


*' Thus have I, good Mr. Cromwell, fully declared to you, as 
far as myself can call to remembrance, all that ever I have 
done or said in this matter, wherein I am sure that never 
one of them all shall tell you any further thing of effect ; for if 
any of them, or any man else, report of me, as I trust verily no 
man will, and I wot well truly no man can, any word or deed 
by me spoken or done, touching any breach of my legal * 
truth and duty towards my most redoubted sovereign, and 
natural liege lord, I will come to mine answ^er, and make it 
good in such w^ise as becometh a poor true man to do ; that 
whosoever any such thing shall say, shall therein say untrue ; 
for I neither have in this matter done evil, nor said evil, nor so 
much as any evil thing thought, but only have been glad, and 
rejoiced of them that were reported for good ; w^hich condition 
I shall nevertheless keep towards all other good folk, for the 
false, cloaked hyprocisy of any of these, no more than I shall 
esteem Judas the true apostle, for Judas the false traitor.f 

" But so purpose I to bear myself in every man's company 
while I live, that neither good man nor bad, neither monk, 
friar, nor nun, nor other man or w^oman in this world shall 
make me digress from my truth and faith, either towards God 
or towards my natural prince, by the grace of Almighty God ; 
and as you therein find me true, so I heartily therein pray you 
to continue towards me your favour and good-will, as you shall 
be sure of my poor daily prayer ; for other pleasure can I not 
do you. And thus the Blessed Trinity, both bodily and 
ghostly, long preserve and prosper you. 

" I pray you pardon me, that I write not unto you of mine 
own hand, for verily I am compelled to forbear writing for a 
while, by reason of this disease of mine, whereof the chief 
occasion is grown, as it is thought, by the stooping and leaning 

* Is not this a copyist's error for loyal or leal ? 

t i.e., He will not count the apostle St. Jude (Thaddeus) a traitor, 
because Judas (Iscariot) was a traitor. 


on my breast, that I have used in writing. And thus, eft- 
soons, I beseech Our Lord long to preserve you." * 

That the letter written by Sir Thomas to the nun was not 
considered a sufficient exculpation can only be accounted for 
by the supposition that it was not taken as authentic, that he 
was suspected not to have really kept a copy of his letter, but 
to have now invented this in self-defence. This is not a sup- 
position merely, for it appears, from a paper in the British 
Museum, that inquiries were made as regards More's letter, 
and the answer was signally corroborative of More's veracity. 
There is neither name nor date to this paper. I give what re- 
lates to More verbatim, but not in its uncouth spelling : " The 
phrase of Master More's letter I have utterly (as God knoweth) 
forgotten, for I read it only superficially. In the which I per- 
ceived at that time no hurt. Whereupon I counselled and 
desired Master Golde, also the woman, to keep it safe, for the 
discharge of the said Master More, whom I conjectured to have 
heard, after his departing from Sion, something considering 
her being with the king's Grace, and revelations touching this 

* This letter is not in Rastell's collection. It was published by 
Burnet in the Records (n. xxi.) of his second book. He took it from the 
Norfolk MSS. of Gresham College. " This collection," says Mr. 
Pocock, "has been destroyed." Of the 562 MSS. which it contained 
this letter formed part of n. 150, and is catalogued as|g049 in the Cata- 
logi. It was probably not an original. Burnet has charged Rastell with 
suppressing this letter, because of its condemnation of the Holy Maid. 
Mr. Bruce has vindicated the honesty of Rastell in an article in the 
Arclutolofj^ia (vol. xxx. p. 149). From comparison with MSS. now 
existing, Mr. Bruce is of opinion that Rastell printed, not from the 
letters which were sent — to which he had no access — but from rough 
drafts that had remained among Sir Thomas's papers. Of the above 
letter he had no copy. As to the nun, she is not placed among the 
Church's heroines. Catholics entertained different views of her before 
Rastell published More's collected works, as they do now. Blessed 
More's language is strong in reprobation of her, so was Blessed Edmund 
Campion's. Blessed John Fisher abstained from pronouncing any 


laudable marriage (but the truth I know not), whereby I sus- 
pected that he was moved to write that letter. In which he 
gave her thanks for her familiar communication, desiring her 
to be a testimonial that he never moved nothing appertaining 
to our sovereign prince at his being with her. Then also he 
desired her no otherwise to disdain his counsel than did Moses, 
who had all the revelations, the counsel of Jethro, whose coun- 
sel was, as I remember, to show her revelations not to every 
man, but to the spiritual and godly persons, not to wordly 
men, who receive (as the other honey and wax) poison of 
everything.* After he touched the Duke of Buckingham, that 
had much displeasure by consorting to a religious person and 
monk of Hinton, t but for what his displeasure ensued I remem- 
ber not there to be expressed, nor yet for what extent he moved 
that matter, nor yet how it was ordered in his style, but that he 
annexed in the conclusion of his letter this petition to be num- 
bered as one most desirous of her prayers, and such pleasure 
as he might do it should always be ready." The paper con- 
cludes with an acknowledgment of guilt and folly, anda piteous 
appeal for mercy, among other things in consideration of the 
writer's youth. J 

Cromwell, of course, kept this document to himself, and 
neither communicated it to Sir Thomas More, nor to the tri- 
bunal before which he was to be accused. The parliament 
that More had opened in 1529 had not yet been dissolved, and 
was summoned for a new session on 15th January. On the 
21st of February, a bill of attainder was introduced in the 
upper house against all whom it was sought to implicate with 
the nun. Sir Thomas heard (perhaps without surprise) that 

* It was a common saying that the bee sucks honey from the flower, 
and the spider poison. 

t "Mount Grace" was first written and cancelled. 

+ Cotton MSS. Cleopatra E., vi. f. 154. This paper seems to be 
written by one of the friars, Rich or Risby. From the words, " your 
goodness, your mastership," it is clearly addressed to Cromwell. 


his name was included, and he wrote the following letter to 
Cromwell : — 

" Right Worshipful, — 

" After right hearty recommendations, so it is that I 
am informed that there is a bill put in against me into the 
higher house before the lords, concerning my communication 
with the nun of Canterbury, and my writing unto her. Whereof 
I not a little marvel, the truth of the matter being such as God 
and I know it is, and as I have plainly declared unto you by 
my former letters, wherein I found you then so good, that I 
am now bold eftsoon upon your goodness to desire you to show 
me the favour, that I might the rather by your good means 
have a copy of the bill. 

" Which seen, if I find any untrue surmise therein, as of 
likelihood there is, I may make my humble suit unto the king's 
good Grace, and declare the truth, either to His Grace, or by His 
Grace's commandment, wheresover the matter shall require. 
I am so sure of my truth towards His Grace, that I cannot mis- 
trust His Grace's favour towards me upon the truth known, nor 
the judgment of any honest man. Nor never shall their loss 
in this matter grieve me, being myself so innocent as God and 
I know me, whatever should happen therein by the grace of 
Almighty God, who, both bodily and ghostly, preserve you. 

" At Chelsea, this present Saturday, 
'' By the hand of, 

" Heartily all your own, 

"Tho. More, Knight."* 

This letter was soon followed by another to the king, but as 
it is unusually verbose and contains no new facts, it will he 
enough to give the substance. More reminds Henry of his 
gracious promise of protection in case of any suit that might 
concern More's honour. For honour or profit he cares noth- 
ing, but a charge is being made that touches him more deeply, 

* English Works, p. 1423. 


for his allegiance is called in question. He is perfectly clear in 
his conscience, but cannot endure the suspicion of ingratitude 
and baseness. If he should lose his Majesty's good opinion 
he cares not about goods, liberty or life. These things " could 
never do me pennyworth of pleasure ; but only should my 
comfort be, that after my short life, and your long (which with 
continual prosperity to God's pleasure Our Lord of His mercy 
send you), I should once meet Your Grace again in heaven, and 
there be merry with you ; where, among mine other pleasures, 
this should yet be one, that Your Grace should surely see there 
then, that, howsoever you take me, I am your true bedesman 
now, and ever have been, and will be till I die, howsoever 
your pleasure be to do by me ".* 

Rastell gives this as written " in February or March," the 
draft from which he printed bearing no date or signature. The 
Cotton MS. concludes : " At my poor house of Chelsith, the 
fifth day of March, by the known rude hand of your most 
humble and heavy faithful subject and bedeman, Thomas 
More, Knight". 

The bill had been read a second time on 26th February, and 
a third time on 6th March. The entry in the Lords' Journal 
of that date is as follows (in Latin) : " A bill, written on 
paper, concerning the due punishment of Elizabeth Barton, 
nun and hypocrite, formerly called the Holy Maid of Kent, 
with her adherents, was thrice read. Their lordships thereupon 
thought it fit to find whether it was according to the king's will 
that Sir Thomas More, and the others named with him in the 
said bill (with the exception of the Bishop of Rochester, who 
is laid up with illness, and whose answer is already known by 
his letters), should be required to appear before their lordships 
in the Star Chamber, that it may be heard what they can say 
for themselves." 

The Imperial Ambassador, Chapuys, wrote to the Emperor 

* English Works, p. 1423, and in Ellis. Orig. Let. (ist ser.) ii. 47, 
from Cleop E., vi. 132. 


on 7th March : " More, the late chancellor, has been examined 
by the chancellor [Audley] and Cromwell, for a letter which 
he wrote to the nun, which could not have been more prudent, 
as he exhorted her to attend to devotion and not meddle in the 
affairs of princes. As the king did not find, as it seems he 
hoped, an occasion for doing him more harm, he has taken 
away his salary." * 

His name was indeed struck out of the bill of attainder ; 
but I must relate in a separate chapter how this came about, 
because the narrative will bring us into a matter of a very 
different nature — More's views regarding the supremacy of the 
Holy See.t 

* Letters and Papers, vii. 296. 

f In More's English Works will be found some very interesting and 
amusing discussions on miracles, apparitions, and revelations. He 
relates with much wit some examples of imposture (see his Dialogue, 
English Works, p. 134), but with great earnestness an instance of what he 
considered a true diabolical possession and miraculous deliverance [lb., 137). 
False miracles and imposture he considers no disproof of the existence of 
true miracles and real revelations, but a proof of the need of careful 
tests: "I am sure though ye see some white sapphire or berill so well 
counterfeit, and so set in a ring, that a right good jeweller will take it for 
a diamond, yet will ye not doubt, for all that, but that there be in many 
other rings already set right diamonds indeed. Nor ye will not mistrust 
St. Peter for Judas." 




ROPER relates a strange, pathetic history. Sir Thomas 
More, the virtuous and accompHshed gentleman, the 
perfect statesman, the most loyal of subjects, the man who 
had spent the best years of his life in the single-hearted service of 
his king and country — this man was hated by his king for his 
very goodness, for his uprightness and honour, and the king 
was bent on his ruin unless he could bring him to dishonour. 
Without a shred of evidence against him, with the clearest 
proofs of his loyalty in his hands, both in More's own declara- 
tion, in the letter he had written to the nun, and in the testi- 
mony of Father Hugh Rich, Henry had caused his former 
friend, whose neck he had clasped so lovingly as they walked 
in the Chelsea garden, to be attainted before those noblemen and 
prelates, over whose assembly he had so lately presided as 
chancellor, on a charge of misprision of treason, a crime in- 
volving confiscation of all property and imprisonment at the 
king's pleasure ; and all this, says Roper, " presupposing of 
likelihood that this bill would be to Sir Thomas More so troub- 
lous that it would force him to relent and condescend to his 
request " (to approve his divorce), " wiierein," adds his son-in- 
law proudly, " His Grace was much deceived ". 

Sir Thomas had petitioned to be heard by the lords ; the 
lords also, who knew his innocence, had petitioned for leave to 
hear him. A strange thing — that such a petition should have 


been necessary when men's honour, property and Hberty were at 
stake! "The king," continues Roper, "not liking this proposal, 
assigned that he should appear before four members of his 
Council: Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; Audley, the Lord 
Chancellor ; the Duke of Norfolk, and Thomas Cromwell. At 
which time I, thinking I had a good and fit opportunity, ear- 
nestly advised him to labour to those lords for his discharge 
out of the bill ; who answered me that he would." The in- 
structions, however, of these royal tools were not to inquire into 
truth and justice, but to seek by promises and threats to make 
Sir Thomas More one like themselves. 

" At his coming before them they entertained him very 
friendly, willing him to sit down with them, which in no wise 
he would. Then began the lord chancellor to declare unto 
him how many ways the king had showed his love and favour 
towards him, how fain he would have had him continue in his 
office, how glad he would have been to have heaped more 
benefits upon him, and finally how he could ask no worldly 
honour nor profit at His Highness's hands that were likely to be 
denied him ; hoping by this declaration to provoke him to re- 
compense His Grace with the like again, and unto those things 
which the parliament, the bishops, and the universities had al- 
ready passed to add his consent. To this Sir Thomas mildly 
made answer : ' No man living is there, my lords, that would 
with better will do the thing that should be acceptable to the 
king's Highness. Howbeit, I verily hoped I should never have 
heard of this matter more, considering that I have from time 
to time always from the beginning so plainly and truly declared 
my mind unto His Grace; which His Highness ever seemed to 
me, like a most gracious prince, very well to accept, never 
minding, as he said, to molest me more therewith.' 

" Many things more were there of the like sort uttered on 
both sides. But in the end, when they saw they could by no 
manner of persuasions remove him from his former determina- 
tion, then began they more terribly to touch him, telling him 


that the king's Highness had given commandment, if they could 
by no gentleness win him, in his name with his great ingrati- 
tude to charge him — that never w-as there servant so to his 
sovereign so villainous, nor subject to his prince so traitorous 
as he. For he, by subtle, sinister slights most unnaturally pro- 
voking the king to set forth his book on the seven sacraments 
and maintaining of the Pope's authority, had caused him, to 
his dishonour throughout all Christendom, to put a sword in 
the Pope's hand to fight against himself. 

"When thus had they laid forth all the terrors they could 
imagine against him, ' My lords,' quoth he, ' these terrors be 
arguments for children, and not for me. But to answer to 
that wherewith you do chiefly burden me, I believe the king's 
Highness of his honour will never lay that to my charge, for 
none is there that can in this point say in my excuse more than 
His Highness himself. He right well knoweth that I was never 
procurer nor counsellor of His Majesty thereto ; but after it 
was finished, by His Grace's appointment and consent of the 
makers of the same, I was only a sorter out and placer of the 
principal matters therein contained. Wherein, when I found 
the Pope's authority highly advanced, and with strong argu- 
ments mightily defended, I said unto His Grace : I must put 
Your Highness in remembrance of one thing, and that is this — 
the Pope, as Your Grace knoweth, is a prince as you are, and in 
league with all other Christian princes. It may so hereafter 
fall out that Your Grace and he may vary upon some point of 
leagues, whereupon may grow breach of amity and war between 
you both. I think it best, therefore, that that place be amended 
and his authority more slenderly touched.' ' Nay,' quoth His 
Grace, 'that shall it not. We are so much bounden to the See 
of Rome that we cannot do too much honour to it.' Then did 
I farther put him in remembrance of the statute of Premunire, 
whereby a good part of the Pope's pastoral cure here was pared 
away. To that answered His Highness : 'Whatsoever impediment 
be to the contrary, we will set forth that authority to the utter- 


most, for we receive from that See our crown imperial ; which 
I never heard of before till His Grace told it me with his own 
mouth '. 

" Thus displeasantly departed they. Then took Sir Thomas 
his boat towards his house at Chelsea, wherein by the way he 
was very merry ; and for that I was nothing sorry, hoping that 
he had gotten himself discharged out of the parliament bill. 
When he was landed and come home, then walked we twain 
alone in his garden together, where I, desirous to know how 
he had sped, said : ' I trust, sir, that all is well because you 
are so merry?' * It is so indeed, son Roper, I thank God,' 
quoth he. ' Are you, then, put out of the bill ? ' quoth I. ' By 
my troth, son Roper,' quoth he, 'I never remembered it.' 
* Never remembered it !' said I ; 'a cause that toucheth your- 
self too near, and us all for your sake. I am sorry to hear it, 
for I verily trusted, when I saw you so merry, that all had 
been well.' Then said he : ' Wilt thou know, son Roper, why 
I was so merry ? In good faith I rejoiced that I had given 
the devil a foul fall, and that with those lords I had gone so 
far as, without great shame, I could never go back again.' At 
which words waxed I very sad, for though himself liked it 
well, yet liked it me but a little. 

"Now, upon the report made to the king of all their discourse, 
the king was so highly offended, that he plainly told them he 
was fully determined that the bill should proceed against him. 
To whom the lord chancellor and the rest of the lords said 
tliat they perceived the lords of the upper house so bent to 
hear him in his own defence, that if he were not put out of the 
bill, it would, without fail, be utterly an overthrow of all. But 
for all this needs would the king have his own will, or else (he 
said) that at the passing thereof he would be personally 
present himself. 

" Then the Lord Audley and the rest, seeing him so 
vehemently set thereupon, on their knees most humbly be- 
sought His Grace to forbear, considering that if he should 


in his own presence receive an overthrow, it would not only 
encourage his subjects ever after to contemn him, but also 
through all Christendom redound to his dishonour for ever ; 
adding that they mistrusted not in time against him to find 
some meet matter to serve his time better ; for in this cause 
of the nun, he was accounted (they said) so innocent and 
clear, that for his dealing therein men reckoned him far 
worthier of praise than of reproof, ^^'hereupon at length, 
through their earnest persuasion, he was content to condescend 
to their petition. And on the morrow after, Mr. Cromwell 
meeting me in the parliament house,* willed me to tell my 
father that he was put out of the parliament bill. But because 
I had appointed to dine that day in London, I sent the 
message by my servant to my wife to Chelsea. Whereof when 
she informed her father, ' Meg,' quoth he, ' quod differtur non 
aufei'tiu'\ After this, as the Duke of Norfolk and Sir lliomas 
More chanced to fall in familiar talk together, the Duke said 
unto him : ' By the Mass, Mr. More, it is perilous striving 
with princes ; therefore, I would wish you somewhat to incline 
to the king's pleasure ; for by God's Body, Mr. More, indig- 
natio p7'i7icipis niois est '. ' Is that all, my lord ? ' quoth he ; 
' then, in good faith, between Your Grace and me is but this, 
that I shall die to-day and you to-morrow.' " 

Immediately on returning home from his interview with the 
Council,^ Sir Thomas More thought it best to make a statement 
in writing, to the same effect as he had spoken, on the three 
points which had been brought forward — the matter of the nun, 
that of the divorce, and the supremacy of the Holy See. This 
he did in a letter to Cromwell, asking him to be his spokes- 
man and advocate with the king. 

He repeats in a few words what he had said in a previous 
letter with regard to the faultlessness of his conduct in the 
matter of the nun's revelations. I have given already from 

■^ Roper was M.P. for Canterbury. 

t The letter is dated 6th March in the MS. copy. 


this letter his account of the way he had studied the question of 
the divorce, and the entirely neutral position he had kept. We 
must now hear his own declaration as to the history of his mind 
on the doctrine of the Pope's su])remacy. To secure his exact 
words I have transcribed the following from the corrected copy 
which he signed and sent to Cromwell,* not from the printed 
version that was made from the rough draft.f . The variations, 
however, are very insignificant, except in two instances that will 
be mentioned in the notes : — 

" As touching the third point, the primacy of the Pope, I 
nothing meddle in the matter. Truth it is, that as I told you 
when you desired me to show you what I thought therein,:}; I 
was myself sometime not of the mind that the primacy of that 
See § should be begun by the institution of God, until that I 
read in that matter those things that the king's Highness had 
written in his most famous book against the heresies of Martin 
Luther. At the first reading whereof I moved the king's High- 
ness either to leave out that point or else to touch it more 
slenderly, for doubt of such things as after might hap to fall in 
question between His Highness and some Pope, as between 
princes and Popes divers times have done. Whereunto His 
Highness answered me that he would in nowise anything 
minish of that matter, of which thing His Highness showed me 
a secret cause, whereof I never had anything heard before. 

"But surely after that I had read His Grace's book therein, 
and so many other things as I have seen in that point by this 
continuance of this ten|| years since and more, I have found in 
effect the substance of all the holy doctors, from St. Ignatius, 
disciple to St. John the Evangelist, unto our own days, both 

* Cleopatra E., vi. f. 150-152. 
t English Works, p. 1426. 

* That is, in the appearance before the Council the same day. 

§ The words " See apostolique " were first written, but " aposto ique 
is cancelled. It occurs, however, below. 

II Rastell's version has seven. It is clearlv x. in the MS. 


Latins and Greeks, so consonant and agreeing in that point, 
and the thing by such General Councils so confirmed also, that 
in good faith I never neither read nor heard anything of such 
effect on the other side that ever could lead me to think that 
my conscience were well discharged, but rather in right great 
peril, if I should follow the other side, and deny the primacy to 
be provided by God. 

" Which if we did, yet can I nothing (as I showed you) per- 
ceive any commodity that ever could come by that denial. For 
that primacy is at the leastwise instituted by the corps of 
Christendom, and for a great urgent cause in avoiding of 
'schisms, and corroborate by continual succession more than 
the space of a thousand years at the least (for there are 
passed almost a thousand years since the time of the holy St. 
Gregory). And, therefore, since all Christendom is one corps, 
I cannot perceive how any member thereof may, without the 
common consent of the body, depart from the common head. 
And then if we may not lawfully leave it by ourself, I cannot 
perceive, but if* the thing were a treating in a General Council, 
what the question could avail, whether the primacy were in- 
stituted immediately by God, or ordained by the Church. 

" As for the General Councils assembled lawfully, I never 
could perceive, but that in the declaration of the truths, to be 
believed and to be standen to, the authority thereof ought to 
be taken for undoubtable.f Or else were there in nothing no 
certainty, but through Christendom upon every man's affection- 
ate reason all things might be brought from day to day to con- 
tinual ruffle and confusion. From which by the General 
Councils, the Spirit of God, assisting every such Council well 
assembled, keepeth, and ever shall keep, the corps of His 
Catholic Church. 

* " But if," i.e., except in the case that. 

+ Rastell has : " In the declaration of the truth, it is to be believed 
and to be standen to, the authority whereof ought to be taken for un- 
doubtable ". 


" And verily, since the king's Highness hath (as by the book 
of his honourable Council appeareth), appealed to the General 
Council from the Pope, in which Council I beseech Our Lord 
send His Grace comfortable speed, methinketh in my poor mind 
it could be no furtherance there unto His Grace's cause if His 
Highness should in his own realm before, either by laws mak- 
ing, or books putting forth, seem to derogate and deny, not 
only the primacy of the See Apostolic, but also the authority 
of the General Councils too. Which I verily trust His Highness 
intendeth not. 

'' For in the next General Council it may well happen, that 
this Pope may be deposed and another substituted in his room, 
with whom the king's Highness may be very well content. For 
albeit that I have for my own part such opinion of the Pope's 
primacy * as I have showed you, yet never thought I the Pope 
above the General Council, nor never have I in any book of 
mine, put forth among the king's subjects in our vulgar tongue, 
advanced greatly the Pope's authority .f For albeit that a man 
may peradventure so find therein that, after the common 
manner of all Christian realms, I speak of him as primate, yet 
never do I stick thereon with reasoning and proving of that 
point. And in my book against the Masker I wrote not, I 
wot well, five lines, :|; and yet of no more but only St. Peter him- 
self, from whose person many take not § the primacy, even of 
those that grant it none of his successors. And yet was that 
book made, printed, and put forth of very truth before that any 
of the books of the Council || was either printed or spoken 
of. But whereas I had written thereof at length in my con- 
futation before, and for the proof thereof had compiled together 
all that I could find therefor, at such time as I little looked 
that there should fall between the king's Highness and the Pope 

* Rastell has "supremacy". 

t He had done this in his Latin work, as we have seen. 
^ Rastell has " times". § i.e., take not away. 

I| i.e., tne King's Council. 


such a breach as is fallen since ; when I after that saw the 
thing likely to draw towards such displeasure between them I 
suppressed it utterly, and never put word thereof in my book, 
but put out the remnant without it." * 

There are two points in this profession of faith that seem to 
require elucidation. How could a highly educated Catholic 
man hold, as More confesses that he did for a time, that the 
supremacy of the Roman Pontiff was only of ecclesiastical 
institution ? I should reply that his error, being at that time 
purely theoretical, can be easily conceived to have existed quite 
innocently in such a man. He had made no special study of 
theology in his youth, and there was nothing before the rise of 
Luther's heresy to call his special attention to the subject of 
the nature and origin of the Pope's primacy. He was not 
living in schism, and seeking to justify his position, but in 
loyal obedience to the Holy See, certain of the duty of 
obedience, and for that reason not careful to examine the origin 
of the authority whose claim he in no way contested. Of 
course it should be known to every Catholic man that the Pope 
is the divinely appointed successor of St. Peter. But the 
great schism and the action of the Councils of Constance and 
Basle, and the theories to which that action had given rise, had 
much disturbed and confused men's minds. A new but neces- 
sarily imperfect knowledge of early Church history, and of the 
writings of the Fathers, had made students acquainted with 
difficulties for which they found no solutions. Erasmus had 
put out historical doubts on this as on many other subjects ; 
and his writings or conversations had probably much influence 
with More.t 

* Cleopatra E., f. 150; also English Works, p. 1426. 

+ De monarchia Pontificis nunquam dubitavi, sed an hrec monarchia 
fuerit agnita tempore Hieronymi aut exserta, dubito alicubi. Sed ut 
alicubi noto quod videtur facere ad banc opinionem, ita rursus aliis locis 
annoto qua^ faciunt ad diversam opinionem. Et tot aliis locis voco 
Petrum principem apostolici ordinis, pontificem Romanum vicarium 
Christi et Ecclesia principem (Erasmus, Ep. 667). 


But I should conjecture that the main source of his error was 
his intimate famiHarity with l^unstall. More held his friend's 
learning, as well as his virtue, in the highest esteem. Now 
Tunstall declares, in his answer to Pole's treatise on ecclesiasdcal 
unity, that his opinions on the Holy See were, and ever had 
been, not such as we call (lallican, but like those of modern 
Anglicans. It will not be a digression to give a specimen of 
Tunstall's language, since what he wrote to Pole in 1536 he 
must have often said to More, during their long intimacy. He 
declares that the king, in making himself head of the Anglican 
Church, was desiious " to reduce his Church of England out of 
all captivity of foreign ])owers, heretofore usurped therein, into 
the pristine estate that all Churches of all realms were in at the 
beginning, and to abolish and clearly put away such usurpation 
as theretofore in this realm the Bishops of Rome have, to their 
great advantage and impoverishing of the realm and the king's 
subjects, of the same. . . . Would to God you had been 
exercised in reading the ancient councils, that you might have 
known from the beginning, from age to age, the continuance 
and progress of the Catholic Church, by which you should 
have perceived that the Church of Rome had never of old such 
a monarchy as of late it hath usurped."* In a dignified answer 
Pole reminds Tunstall that men, learned and holy as Fisher and 
More, held the contrary, and were so thoroughly convinced 
of the Divine institution of the primacy of tlie Holy See, that 
they had shed their blood for it. 

When, in 1520, More's attention was called to this matter, 
he must at first have been perplexed between Fisher and 
Tunstall ; but when he gave himself to earnest study he soon 
came to share the conviction and faith of Fisher, and he tells 
Cromwell that more than ten years' continual study had in no 

* MS. in British Museum, Cleopatra E., vi. f. 389. I am not aware 
whether this letter is anyw here printed. Pole's answer to it is in Strypc 
Mi in., i. pt. ii, n. S3, p. 306. 


wise altered his mind, so that it was not a matter of opinion 
but of conscience. 

What More adds about the possibility of a General Council 
deposing the Pope is somewhat male sonans^ but it must be 
remembered that More is taking the king at his own word ; he 
had not only appealed to a future General Council against the 
Pope, but he accused the Pope himself of being a usurper of the 
Apostolic See by simony, and (in any case) of having forfeited it 
by heresy. More, therefore, knowing full well that Henry wished 
for nothing less than the meeting of a General Council, wished 
His Majesty good speed. It would be rash to quote More as 
holding that a Council may depose a Pope for evil and scan- 
dalous life, as some have held. More refers only to the two 
things mentioned by Henry, viz., simony and heresy. Now, it 
is admitted by all that simony invalidates a Pope's election. 
Could it be proved against him, he would not, strictly speaking, 
be deposed, but he would be declared never to have been 
Pope.* Again, if manifest and obstinate heresy were proved 
against a Pope, a Council might declare his See vacant, since he 
would be deposed by the invisible Head of the Church, the 
everlasting Truth. t 

In these cases only is a Council above the Pope, according to 
the highest " ultramontane " doctrine, nor would it be just to 
cite our great chancellor for more than this. His words were 
all weighed in a learned balance. It was not many days after 
this declaration that More had to prove, by loss of bodily 
liberty, the freedom of his soul and his steadfast allegiance to 

* His acts, however, would have been valid ex titnlo colorato (see 
Fraiiselin, De Ecclcsia. Boiiix, De Pupa, vol. iii.). 

t The case has never occurred, and manv hold that it cannot occur. 



ALL attempts to entangle More in the meshes of the law 
for his own actions had entirely failed. He had proved 
his innocence in every point. His ruin was lo be ac- 
complished by the course of public events in which he had 
had no share. The day that he had foretold, and for which he 
was preparing himself, soon came, when Henry's divorce and 
marriage with Anne Boleyn, as well as the succession to the 
crown in her offspring, were to be confirmed by oaths. A bill 
limiting the succession, making it high treason to oppose it, and 
misprision of treason to speak against it, was passed in parlia- 
ment and received the royal assent on 30th March, 1534. It 
enacted "that all the nobles of the realm, spiritual and temporal, 
and all other subjects arrived at full age, should be obliged to 
take corporal oath, in the presence of the king or his com- 
missioners, to observe and maintain the whole effect and con- 
tents of the Act ". The penalties of refusal were those of 
misprision of treason. Parliament, however, omitted to 
prescribe a formula. That which was drawn up by the com- 
missioners was wider than the scope of the Act, and included 
an affirmation of the truth of its preamble, declaring the 
invalidity of Henry's first marriage and the validity of the 
second. As the Sovereign Pontiff had, on 23rd March, 1534, 
given his final decision in favour of the marriage with Katharine 
of Aragon, such an oath implied the rejection of his authority. 
At the same time the formula recalled and repudiated any oath 


taken " to any foreign authority, prince, or potentate ". Tliis, 
for the clergy, was a violation and renunciation of their oath of 
fidelity and obedience to the Pope. By an evident abuse of 
this Act of parliament an oath was administered to all the clergy 
throughout the realm, expressing total rejection of any authority 
of the Bishop of Rome in England. For the laity the form 
chosen dwelt rather on the succession to the crown. 

The members of the two houses took the oath in presence of 
the king before the prorogation of parliament on the 30th 
March. What formula was used on that occasion we do not 
know. That which appears in the Lords' Journal, and to 
which reference has just been made as having been drawn up 
by the commissioners, did not receive parliamentary sanction 
until the next session, towards the close of the year, though 
that sanction declared it valid in the past. 

Sir Thomas now took a singular way of preparing his family 
for the catastrophe, if we may believe Cresacre. This was to 
give them some false alarms. He hired an official to come 
suddenly to his house, as if w^ith a summons, so as to startle all 
the inmates, and thus give him an opportunity to speak on the 
subject of detachment and martyrdom. On 28th March John 
Graaynfyld, an official of the Court of Chancery, wrote to 
Lord Lisle : " My old master. Sir Thomas More, is clearly 
discharged of his trouble ".* Sir Thomas knew that he w-as 
only at the beginning of his troubles. 

On Low^ Sunday, which, in 1534, fell on 12th April, More 
went into London with his son-in-law, Roper, to hear the 
sermon at St. Paul's, and afterwards went to the house of John 
Clements. His presence had been remarked, and the official, 
following him to Clements' house, served him with a citation 
to appear next morning before the royal commissioners at 
Lambeth, to take the new oath.f What follows must be told 

* Letters and Papers, vii. 384. 

t This circumstance is not noted by Roper, but by Stapleton (cap. 15), 
who no doubt learnt it from Mrs. Clements. There is a misprint of 
Dom. in palwis for in alhis. 


in the very words of Roper, the eye-witness : " Then Sir 
Thomas More, as his accustomed manner always was ere he 
entered into any matter of importance (as when he was first 
chosen of the Privy Council, when he was sent ambassador, 
appointed speaker of the parliament-house, made lord chan- 
cellor, or when he took any other like weighty matter upon 
him), to go to Church to be confessed,* to hear Mass, and to 
be houseled ; so did he likewise in the morning early the self- 
same day that he was summoned to appear before the lords at 
Lambeth". This was Monday, 13th April. The com- 
missioners were: Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury ; Audley, 
lord chancellor ; Cromwell, secretary of state ; to whom was 
added the Abbot of Westminster. 

Roper continues: "And whereas he evermore used before, 
at his departure from his wife and children, whom he tenderly 
loved, to have them bring him to his boat, and there to kiss 
them, and bid them all farewell, then would he suffer none of 
them forth the gate to follow him, but pulled the wicket after 
him and shut them all from him ; and with a heavy heart, as by 
his countenance it appeared, with me and our four servants 
took boat towards Lambeth. Wherein sitting still sadly a while, 
at the last he suddenly rounded me in the ear and said : ' Son 
Roper, I thank Our Lord the field is won '. What he meant 
thereby I then wist not, yet, loth to seem ignorant, I answered : 
* Sir, I am therefor very glad '. But, as I conjectured after- 
ward, it was for that the love he had to God wrought in him so 
effectually that he conquered all his carnal affection utterly." 

I may here supplement Roper's narrative from the beautiful 
treatise composed by Sir Thomas in the Tower on Our Lord's 
Agony in the Garden. In it will be found the true explanation 
of his own conduct throughout his trials and martyrdom, because 
he had ever this model before his eyes. Thus, of the interior 

* The old English phrase " to be confessed " (where we say " to con- 
fess ") indicates the sacramental character of the act, and its passive 
nature as regards absolution. 


conflict he endured in parting with his family and his liberty, after 
mentioning that some of the martyrs of their own accord gladly 
went to meet persecution, he writes : " But yet God of His in- 
finite mercy doth not require us to take upon us this most high 
degree of stout courage, which is so full of hardness and diffi- 
culty. And therefore I would not advise every man at adven- 
ture rashly to run forth so far forward that he shall not be able 
fair and softly to come back again, but unless he can attain to 
climb up to the hill-top, be haply in hazard to tumble down 
even to the bottom headlong. Let them yet whom God especi- 
ally calleth thereunto set forth in God's name and proceed, and 
they shall reign. But yet before a man falleth in trouble, fear 
is not greatly to be discommended, and so that reason be al- 
ways ready to resist and master fear, the conflict is then no sin 
nor offence at all, but rather a great matter of merit. . . . Unto 
one that were likely to be in such a case, Christ saith : ' Pluck 
up thy courage, faint heart ; what though thou be fearful, 
sorry and weary, and standest in great dread of most painful 
torments, be of good comfort ; for I Myself have vanquished 
the whole world, and yet felt I far more fear, sorrow, weariness, 
and much more inward anguish too, when I considered My 
most bitter, painful Passion to press so fast upon Me. He that 
is strong-hearted may find a thousand glorious valiant martyrs 
whose ensample he may right joyously follow. But thou now, 
O timorous and weak, silly sheep, think it sufficient for thee 
only to walk after Me, which am thy Shepherd and Governor, 
and to mistrust thyself and put thy trust in Me. Take hold of 
the hem of My garment, therefore ; from thence shall thou per- 
ceive strength and relief to proceed.' " * 

Sir Thomas will now himself tell us what happened to him 
at Lambeth. It was a great crisis in English history, the first 
overt and total renunciation of the authority of the Sovereign 
Pontiff and separation from the rest of Christendom ; for such 
in reality and in effect it was, though few realised at the time 
* English Works, p. 1357. 


the full significance of their act. A letter to his daughter Mar- 
garet, written a few days later, has been preserved : " When I 
was before the lords at Lambeth I was the first that was called 
in, albeit that Master Dr. the Vicar of Croydon was come be- 
fore me and divers others. After the cause of my sending for 
declared unto me (whereof I somewhat marvelled in my mind, 
considering that they sent for no temporal men but me), I de- 
sired the sight of the oath, which they showed me under the 
great seal. Then desired I the sight of the Act of Succession, 
which was delivered me in a printed roll. After which read 
secretly by myself, and the oath considered with the Act, I 
answered unto them that my purpose was not to put any fault 
either in the Act or any man that made it, or in the oath or 
any man that sware it, nor to condemn the conscience of any 
other man : but as for myself, in good faith my conscience so 
moved me in the matter, that though I would not deny to 
swear to the succession, yet unto that oath that there was 
offered me I could not swear without the jeoparding of my 
soul to perpetual damnation. And that if they doubted whether 
I did refuse the oath only for the grudge of my conscience or 
for any fantasy, I was ready therein to satisfy them by my oath 
which if they trusted not, what should they be the better to 
give me any oath ? And if they trusted that I would therein 
swear true, then trusted I that of their goodness they would not 
move me to swear the oath that they offered me, perceiving 
that for to swear it was against my conscience. 

" Unto this my lord chancellor said, that they all were very 
sorry to hear me say this, and see me thus refuse the oath. 
And they said all, that on their faith I was the very first that 
ever refused it, which would cause the king's Highness to con- 
ceive great suspicion of me and great indignation towards me. 
And therewith they showed me the roll and let me see the 
names of the lords and the commons which had sworn and 
subscribed their names already. Which notwithstanding, when 
they saw that I refused to swear the same myself, not blaming 



any other man that had sworn, I was in conclusion commanded 
to go down into the garden. And thereupon I tarried in the 
old burned chamber that looketh into the garden, and would 
not go down because of the heat. 

" In that time I saw Master Dr. Latimer come into the 
garden, and there walked he with divers other doctors and 
chaplains of my lord of Canterbury. And very merry I saw 
him, for he laughed and took one or twain about the neck so 
handsomely, that if they had been women I would have weened 
he had been waxen wanton. After that came Master Dr. ^^'il- 
son* forth from the lords, and was with two gentlemen 
brought by me, and gentlemanly sent straight unto the Tower. 
What time my Lord of Rochester + was called in before them, 
that can I not tell. But at night I heard that he had been 
before them, but where he remained that night, and so forth 
till he was sent hither, I never heard. J I heard also that 
Master Vicar of Croydon and all the remnant of the priests of 
London that were sent for, were sworn ; and that they had 
such favour at the Council's hand, that they were not lingered 
or made to dance any long attendance to their travail and cost, 
as suitors were sometimes wont to be, but were sped apace to 
their great comfort ; so far forth that Master Vicar of Croydon, 
either for gladness or for dryness, or else that it might be seen, 
Quod tile notus erat p07itifici^ went to my lord's buttery bar 
and called for drink, and drank valde familiar iter. 

"When they had played their pageant and were gone out of 
the place, then was I called in again. And then was it declared 
unto me, what a number had sworn ever since I went aside, 
gladly without any sticking. Wherein I laid no blame in no 
man, but for mine own self answered as before. Now, as well 
before as then, they somewhat laid unto me for obstinacy, that 
whereas before, since I refused to swear, I would not declare any 

* Dr. Wilson had been royal chaplain. 

t Blessed John Fisher. 

X He was kept at Lambeth in the custody of Archbishop Cranmer. 


special part of that oath that grudged my conscience, and open 
the cause wherefore. For thereunto I had said unto them, that 
I feared lest the king's Highness would, as they said, take dis- 
pleasure enough towards me for the only refusal of the oath. 
And that if I should open and disclose the causes why, I should 
therewith but further exasperate His Highness, which I would in 
nowise do, but ratlier would I abide all the danger and harm 
that might come towards me, than give His Highness any occa- 
sion of further displeasure, than the offering of the oath unto 
me of pure necessity constrained me. 

" Howbeit, when they divers times imputed this to me for 
stubbornness and obstinacy, that I would neither swear the 
oath, nor yet declare the causes why, I declined thus far towards 
them, that rather than I would be accounted for obstinate, I 
would upon the king's license, or rather his such commandment 
had, as might be my sufficient warrant, that my declaration 
should not offend His Highness nor put me in the danger of any 
of his statutes, I would be content to declare the causes in writ- 
ing, and (over that) to give an oath in the beginning, that if I 
might find those causes by any man in suchwise answered, as I 
might think mine own conscience satisfied, I would after that 
with all my heart swear the principal oath too. To this I was 
answered, that though the king would give me license under 
his letters patent, yet would it not serve me against the statute. 
AVhereto I said, that yet if I had them, I would stand unto the 
trust of his honour at my peril for the remnant. But yet 
thinketh me,* lo I that if I may not declare the causes without 
peril, then to leave them undeclared is no obstinacy. 

" My lord of Canterbury taking hold upon that that I said, 
that I condemned not the consciences of them that swear, said 
unto me, that it appeared well, that I did not take it for a very 
sure thing and a certain, that I might not lawfully swear it, but 
rather as a thing uncertain and doubtful. ' But then,' said my 
lord, 'you know for a certainty,andathing without doubt, that you 

* It seems to me. 


be bound to obey your sovereign lord your king. And therefore 
are you bound to leave off the doubt of your unsure conscience 
in refusing the oath, and take the sure way in obeying of your 
prince, and swear it.' Now all was it so, that in mine own mind 
methought myself not concluded,* yet this argument seemed me 
suddenly so subtle, and namely with such authority coming out 
of so noble a prelate's mouth, that I could again answer nothing 
thereto, but only that I thought myself I might not well do so, 
because that in my conscience this was one of the cases in 
which I was bounden that I should not obey my prince, since 
that (whatsoever other folk thought in the matter, whose 
conscience or learning I would not condemn nor take upon me 
to judge), yet to my conscience the truth seemed on the other 
side. Wherein I had not informed my conscience neither sud- 
denly nor slightly, but by long leisure and diligent search for 
the matter. And of truth, if that reason may conclude, then 
have we a ready way to avoid all perplexities ; for in whatsoever 
matter the doctors stand in great doubt, the king's command- 
ment, given upon whether side he list, solveth all the doubts. 

" Then said my lord of Westminster to me, that howsoever 
the matter seemed unto mine own mind, I had cause to fear 
that mine own mind was erroneous, when I see the great 
Council of the realm determine of my mind the contrary, and 
that therefore I ought to change my conscience. To that I 
answered that if there were no more but myself upon my side, 
and the whole parliament upon the other, I would be sore 
afraid to lean to mine own mind only against so many. But, 
on the other side, if it so be that in some things for which I 
refuse the oath, I have (as I think I have) upon my part as 
great a council and a greater too, I am not then bounden to 
change my conscience and conform it to the Council of one 
realm against the general council of Christendom. 

"Upon this Master Secretary,! as he that tenderly favoureth 

■* Although it seemed to me that this reasoning was not conclusive, 
t Thomas Cromwell. 


me, said and sware a great oath, that he had lever that his own 
only son (which is of truth a goodly young gentleman, and shall, 
I trust, come to much worship) had lost his head, than that I 
should thus have refused the oath. For surely the king's 
Highness would now conceive a great suspicion against me, 
and think that the matter of the nun of Canterbury was all 
contrived by my drift. To which I said that the contrary was 
true and well known ; and whatsoever should mishap me, it 
lay not in my power to help it without the peril of my soul. 

" Then did my lord chancellor repeat before me my refusal 
unto Master Secretary, as to him that was going unto the 
king's Grace ; and in the rehearsing his lordship repeated again 
that I denied not l)ut was content to swear unto the succession. 
Whereunto I said, that as for that point I would be content, so 
that I might see my oath in that point so framed, in such a 
manner as might stand with my conscience. Then said my 
lord : ' Marry, Master Secretary, mark that too, that he will not 
swear that neither but under some certain manner '. ' \^erily no, 
my lord,' quoth I, ' but that I will see it made in such wise 
first as I shall myself see that I shall neither be forsworn nor 
swear against my conscience.' Surely as to swear to the succes- 
sion I see no peril : but I thought and think it reason that to 
mine own oath I look well myself, and be of counsel also in the 
fashion ; and never intended to swear for a piece and set my hand 
to the whole oath. Howbeit, as help me (iod, as touching the 
whole oath I never withdrew any man from it, nor never advised 
any to refuse it, nor never put nor will put any scruple in any 
man's head, but leave every man to his own conscience. And 
methinketh in good faith that so were it good reason that every 
man should leave me to mine." * 

Although this letter was written by More lo his daughter, yet 
there are, if I mistake not, several passages intended rather for 
the eyes of others than for hers. There was every likelihood 
that sooner or later the letter might come before the Council or 

* English Works, p. 1428. 


the king, and he wished to have an accurate record of what 
had passed, and of his reasons for refusing the oath. 

Sir Thomas mentions that the Bishop of Rochester has been 
sent " hither". He means to the Tower, for it is known from 
Roper that, after refusing the oath. Sir Thomas was kept in the 
custody of the Abbot of Westminster for four days while the 
king consulted with his Council as to his future treatment. 
On Friday, 17th April, he was sent to the Tower, whence he 
wrote to his anxious daughter the letter that has just been 

His committal to the Tower was the result of the following 
correspondence between Cranmer and Cromwell : — 

"Right Worshipful Master Cromwell, — 

" After most hearty commendations, etc. I doubt not 
but you do right well remember that my Lord of Rochester and 
Master More were contented to be sworn to the Act of the 
king's succession, but not to the preamble of the same. What 
was the cause^of their refusal I am uncertain, and they would 
by no means express the same. Nevertheless, it must needs 
be either the diminution of the authority of the Bishop of 
Rome, or else the reprobation of the king's first pretensed 
matrimony. But if they do obstinately persist in their opinions 
of the preamble, yet meseemeth it should not be refused, if they 
will be sworn to the very Act of Succession, so that they will 
be sworn to maintain the same against all powers and potentates. 

" For hereby shall be a great occasion to satisfy the princess- 
dowager and the Lady Mary, which do think that they should 
damn their souls if they should abandon and relinquish their 
estates. And not only it should stop the mouths of them, but 
also of the emperor and other their friends, if they give as much 
credence to my Lord of Rochester and Master More speaking 
or doing against them, as they hitherto have done, and thought 
that all should have done, when they spake and did with them. 

" And, peradventure, it should be a good quietation to many 


Other within this reahn, if such men should say that the succes- 
sion comprised within the said Act is good and according to 
God's laws. For then, I think, there is not one within this 
realm that would once reclaim against it. And whereas divers 
jjcrsons, either of a wilfulness will not, or of an indurate and 
invertible conscience cannot, alter from their opinions of the 
king's first pretensed marriage (wherein they have once said 
their minds, and percase have a persuasion in their heads that 
if they should now vary therefrom their fame and estimation 
were distained for ever), or else of the authority of the Bishop 
of Rome ; yet, if all the realm with one accord would apprehend 
the said succession, in my judgment it is a thing to be am- 
l^lected and embraced. Which thing, though I trust surely in 
(lod that it shall be brought to pass, yet hereunto might not a 
little avail the consent and oaths of these two persons, the 
Bishop of Rochester and Master More, with their adherents^ 
or, rather, confederates. 

'• And if the king's pleasure so were, their said oaths might 
be suppressed, but [i.e., except] when and where His Highness 
might take some commodity by the publishing of the same. 
Thus Our Lord have you ever in His conservation. 

" P>om my manor at Croydon, the 17th day of April. 
" Your own assured ever, 

"Thomas Cantuar."* 

The last clause about suppressing the exact nature of the 
oath to be taken by More and Fisher is worthy of Cranmer. It 
was to be given out (such was the scheme) that they had 
yielded, so as to induce others to yield ; but occasionally it 
might "suit the king's commodity," as when dealing with 
persons of similar scruples, to reveal and use the modified form. 

Cromwell laid the archbishop's letter before the king. His 
Majesty did not deny that another form of oath would satisfy 
the Act, l)ut it would by no means satisfy his intentions and 
policy, for his whole object was to humble Sir Thomas, and 

* Burnet, i. 255. Also (in abridgment' in Letters and Papers, vii. 499. 


bend him to his will in the matter of the divorce. Without 
any regard, therefore, to justice, he bade his minister return 
the following answer : — 

" My lord, after mine humble commendation, it may please 
Your Grace to be advertised that I have received your letter 
and showed the same to the king's Highness, who, perceiving 
that your mind and opinion is that it were good that the 
Bishop of Rochester and Master More should be sworn to 
the king's succession, and not to the preamble of the same, 
thinketh that if their oaths should be taken it were an occasion 
to all men to refuse the whole, or at least the like. For, in 
case they be sworn to the succession, and not to the preamble, 
it is to be thought that it might be taken not only as a con- 
firmation of the Bishop of Rome's authority, but also as a 
reprobation of the king's second marriage. Wherefore, to the 
intent that no such things should be brought into the heads 
of the people by the example of the said Bishop of Rochester 
and Master More, the king's Highness in no wise willeth but 
that they shall be sworn as well to the preamble as to the Act. 
Wherefore, His Grace specially trusteth that ye will in no wise 
attempt or move him to the contrary ; for, as His Grace sup- 
poseth, that manner of swearing, if it shall be suffered, may 
be an utter destruction of his whole cause, and also to the 
effect of the law made for the same." 

Roper had never seen these letters, but they entirely bear 
out his assertion, that "albeit in the beginning they (the 
commissioners) were resolved with an oath not to be acknown 
[i.e., acknowledged] whether he had to the supremacy been 
sworn, or what he thought thereof, he should be discharged ; 
yet did Queen Anne, by her importunate clamour, so sore 
exasperate the king against him, that, contrary to his former 
resolution, he caused the said oath of supremacy to be minis- 
tered unto him ; who, albeit he made a discreet, qualified 
answer, nevertheless was forthwith committed to the Tower ". 

The words used by Roper should be noted. Burnet and 


Others find fault with CathoHc writers for speaking of an 
oath of supremacy instead of an oath of succession. Roper, 
however, who was a lawyer as well as a contemporary, knew 
perfectly well what he wrote. Had the oath been merely to 
the succession of the crown, as was the intention of parliament, 
More would have taken it, while regretting the motives or 
premisses that had led to the change. But because the oath 
was converted into one of supremacy, he refused it. 

To clear up the matter, I may remark that, although the 
denial of the Pope's supremacy in the Church in no way 
logically involves the affirmation of the king's supremacy in 
the Church of England (as the whole of non-conformist 
England has perfectly well understood), yet at the period in 
question the two were inseparable in men's minds. The 
headship of the king was insisted on simply to get rid of 
the Pope's authority. The Pope's authority was denied simply 
to make place for the king's prerogative. Thus John Leek 
confesses that he had advised Blessed John Hall "not to go 
to Hounslow before the commissioners to take oath to re- 
nounce the papacy and acknowledge the king's supremacy " ; 
and he is speaking of no other oath than that exacted in virtue 
of this Act of Succession in the spring of 1534.* Though the 
form of oath subscribed by the clergy was much more explicit 
on these points than any that was proposed to Sir Thomas 
More, yet there were in it clauses or words implying the same 
doctrines, as Cranmer's letter testifies. 

Hence Sir Thomas, on his committal to the Tower, while 
accepting and even rejoicing in the Providence of (iod, did 
not conceal the injustice of his imprisonment on the i)art of 
men. " I may tell thee, Meg, they that have committed mc 
hither for refusing of this oath, not agreeable with their 
statute, are not by their own law able to justify mine imprison- 
ment. And surely, daugluer, it is a great pity that any Chris- 
tian prince should, by a flexible council, ready to follow his 

* Letters ami Papers, viii. 565. 


affections, and by a weak clergy, lacking grace constantly to 
stand to their learning, with flattery be so shamefully abused." * 
Lest it be suspected that Margaret may not have exactly 
reported her father's words, or that Sir Thomas may have 
spoken hastily, I will add that the best legal authorities of 
modern times entirely accept More's view, as related by 
Roper; and that the government virtually acknowledged its 
error, by causing parliament to ratify their past arbitrary pro- 
ceedings. A new session began on the 3rd of November, 
1534. Roper says : "At length, the Lord Chancellor and Mr. 
Secretary, espying their own oversight, were fain to find the 
means that another statute should be made for the confirma- 
tion of the oath so amplified with their additions ". 

Sir James Mackintosh writes : "An Act was passed t which 
ratifies and professes to recite the form of oath promulgated 
on the day of prorogation ; and enacts that the oath above 
recited shall be reputed to be the very oath intended by the 
former Act of Succession, though there were, in fact, some 
substantial and important interpolations in the latter Act".| 
And Lord Chancellor Campbell, writing of the attainder of 
More in this same session, "for refusal to take the oath of 
supremacy,'"' says it was "an offence created by no law"; 
since (as he explains elsewhere) the commissioners had no 
right to foist the question of the Pope's supremacy, or the 
king's supremacy, into an oath which should have been limited 
to the succession. An oath to the succession had never been 
refused by either More or Fisher, yet in the winter session 
they were both attainted of misprision of treason. In the Act 
which relates to More,§ the king's grants of land to him in 
1523 and 1525 are resumed; it is alleged that he refused the 
oath since ist May of 1534, with an intent to sow sedition, 
and he is reproached for having demeaned himself in other 
respects ungratefully and unkindly to the king, his benefactor. 

* From a conversation reported b}' Roper. \ 26 Hen. viii. cap. 2. 
X Life of More, p. 176. § 26 Hen. viii. cap. 23. 



"T^^HEN Sir Thomas was going to the Tower," says Roper, 
\^ " wearing as he commonly did a chain of gold about 
his neck, Sir Richard Southwell, that had the charge 
of his conveyance thither, advised him to send home his chain 
to his wife or to some of his children. 'Nay, sir,' quoth he, 
' that I will not ; for if I were taken in the field (of battle) by 
my enemies, I would they should somewhat fare the better for 
me.' At whose landing Mr. Lieutenant* was ready at the 
Tower gate to receive him, where the porter demanded of him 
his upper garment. ' Mr. Porter,' quoth he, ' here it is,' and 
took off his cap and delivered to him, saying : ' I am very 
sorry it is no better for thee '. ' No, sir,' quoth the porter, 
' I must have your gown.' And so was he by Mr. Lieutenant 
conveyed to his lodging, where he called unto him John a 
Wood, his own servant, there appointed to attend him, who 
could neither write nor read, and sware him before the lieu- 
tenant, that if he should hear or see him at any time speak or 
wTite any matter against the king, Council, or the state of the 
realm, he should open it to the lieutenant, that the lieutenant 
might incontinent reveal it to the Council." 

Most of the buildings of the great fortified enclosure, then 
and now called the Tower of London, still stand as in the days 
of Henry \lll. Of these, none is more generally known than 

*Sir Edmund Walsingham. 



the Beauchamp Tower in the western ward, which is tradition- 
ally said to have been the place of confinement of Sir Thomas 
More. According to the fixed scale of charges of the lieu- 
tenant, Sir Thomas as a knight paid fees of ten shillings a week 
for himself and five shillings for his servant. A bill of charges 
drawn up a few years after his death contains the following 

Plan of the Tower. 

1. The Bell Tower. 4. The Lieutenant's Lodgings. 

2. The Beauchamp Tower. 5. The Scaffold. 

3. St. Peter's ad Vincula. 6. All Hallows, Barking. 

entry : " Sir Thomas More for 3 m. [months] unpaid, after 40s. 
and his servant after 5s. [a week] . . . ;£() ".* This heavy 
charge of about £6 a week in modern value ought to have 
purchased a generous diet, yet from details to be mentioned 
presently it would seem that even the smallest comforts had to 
be supplied by friends from outside. Yet, in August, 1534, 
•^^ Cotton MSS. (B.xM.) ; Titus, Bk. i. 


Margaret Roper told her sister-in-law that "besides his old 
disease of his breast, he was now grieved in the reins by reason 
of gravel and stone, and with the cramp that divers nights 
griped his legs ". * 

This did not satisfy his spirit of mortification and penance. 
It had long been a practice with him on certain days to wear a 
rough hair shirt, and he continued this in the prison cell till his 
death. Roper relates that one summer evening when he sat at 
supper with his family and had laid aside his gown, his young 
daughter-in-law, Anne Cresacre, chanced to espy the hair shirt, 
and began to laugh at it. His daughter Margaret, perceiving this, 
acquainted her father, who was sorry that his austerities were 
detected. This beloved child entered into the secrets of her 
fathers heart. She had been accustomed to wash the hair 
shirt for him, and to her the day before his death he had it 
secretly conveyed.! A part of this precious relic lies before 
me as I write. If the holy prisoner sought by penitential ex- 
ercises to communicate more closely with the Passion of Our 
Lord, he kept up his sympathy with the Church during his 
isolation, by celebrating all her feasts, at least in spirit, within 
the walls of his dungeon. Stapleton learnt from one of those 
who cherished every detail of his martyrdom, that he was ac- 
customed to dress more carefully, as far as his slender wardrobe 
allowed, when the great feasts came round. + 

The rigour of confinement varied much in English prisons of 
that date, according to the quality of the offender, the nature 
of his offence, or his means of purchasing the indulgence or 
connivance of his jailor. The lieutenant of the Tower, Sir 
Edmund Walsingham, had been a friend of Sir Thomas. 

* English Works, p. 1434. 

t It was from her that Roper learnt these details, and also that he was 
wont on certain days to punish his body with whips and knotted cords. 

I That he had at least two " gowns " is clear from his own words in a 
letter, that, when summoned before the Council, "he changed his gown," 
and from the fact that, when about to go to the scaftbld, he wished to put 
on his best apparel. 


Roper tells us that soon after his illustrious prisoner's committal 
to his charge, he visited him, and declared that from old affec- 
tion and from gratitude for favours he had himself received, he 
would gladly "make him good cheer," but that this he could 
not do without incurring the anger of the king. Sir Thomas 
replied : " Mr. Lieutenant, I verily believe as you say, and 
heartily thank you ; and assure yourself, I do not mislike my 
cheer; but whensoever I so do, then thrust me out of your 
doors ". Doubtless Sir Edward Walsingham in later days 
would often relate this merry saying of the martyr. 

In a book written in the Tower, that will be described pre- 
sently, Sir Thomas gives us a glimpse of his prison cell, if (as 
it seems certain) he is writing of himself and his wife, " I wist 
a woman once that came into a prison to visit of her charity a 
poor prisoner there, whom she found in a chamber (to say the 
truth) meetly fair, and at the leastw^ise it was strong enough. 
But with mats of straw the prisoner had made it so warm, both 
under the feet and round about the walls, that in these things, 
for the keeping of his health, she was on his behalf glad and 
very well comforted. But among many other displeasures that 
for his sake she was sorry for, one she lamented much in her 
mind, that he should have the chamber door shut upon him by 
night, and made fast by the jailor that should shut him in. 
' For, by my troth,' quoth she, ' if the door should be shut upon 
me, I would ween it would stop up my breath.' At that word 
of hers the prisoner laughed in his mind ; but he durst not 
laugh aloud, nor say nothing to her, for somewhat indeed he 
stood in awe of her, and had his finding there much part of her 
charity for alms ; but he could not but laugh inwardly, while 
he wist well enough that she used on the inside to shut every 
night full surely her own chamber to her, both doors and win- 
dows too, and used not to open them of all the long night. 
And what difference, then, as to the stopping of the breath, 
whether they were shut up within or without ? " * 

* Dialogue uf Comfort, Bk. iii. ch. 20. 


From this and other details it would seem that Sir Thomas 
was treated at first with some leniency. Indeed, he appears to 
have been allowed the range of the Tower, or at least occasional 
exercise in the garden as well as access to the church ; for when 
this liberty had been restricted, his daughter wrote that she 
" cannot hear what moved them to shut him up again. She 
supposes that, considering he was of so temperate mind that 
he was content to abide there all his life with such liberty, they 
thought it not possible to incline him to their will, except by 
restraining him from the church, and the company of his wife 
and children. She remembers that he told her in the garden 
that these things were like enough to chance shortly after." * 

So thoroughly had Sir Thomas More trained himself to 
make the best of everything, that he found in the solitude of 
the prison the realisation of his early aspirations to a monastic 
and contemplative life. " When he had remained in the Tower 
little more than a month," writes Roper, " my wife, longing to 
see her father, by her earnest suit at length got leave to go 
unto him. At whose coming, after the seven psalms and litany 
said (which whensoever she came unto him, ere he fell in talk 
of any worldly matter, he used accustomably to say with her), 
among other communication he said unto her : ' I believe, 
Meg, that they that have put me here ween they have done 
me a high displeasure : but I assure thee on my faith, mine 
own good daughter, if it had not been for my wife and ye that 
be my children, I would not have failed long ere this to have 
closed myself in as strait a room, and straiter too.t But since 
I am come hither without mine own desert, 1 trust that God of 
His goodness will discharge me of my care, and with His 
gracious help supply my lack among you. I find no cause, I 
thank God, Meg, to reckon myself in worse case here than at 
home; for methinketh God maketh me a wanton {i.e., a si)oiled 
child), and setteth me on His lap and dandleth me.' " 

Prisoners have little or no history. From May, 1534, when 

* Letter of Margaret Roper, English Works^ p. 1446, 

t See supra, p. 25. 


he finally refused the oath, to May, 1535, when new troubles 
began, is almost a blank in the records of Sir Thomas More. 
It is hard to realise the monotony of his life. When he had 
been secluded from the church, Sunday and feast-day must 
have passed without bringing even that variety they give to 
modern prison discipline. There were, indeed, two churches 
within the precincts of the Tower, which may still be seen — 
the ancient Norman Church of St. John in the White Tower, 
and the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula, which had recently 
been burnt down and rebuilt ; but into neither of these were 
prisoners conducted to hear Mass on days of precept ; nor can 
I find in any records of those days the slightest trace of sermons 
preached or sacraments administered, with the one exception 
of confession before execution. 

Lady More was allowed once or twice to visit her husband. 
He has told us of his amusement at her horror of suffocation 
under locks and bolts. Another interview is related by Roper, 
the details of which may have been witnessed by Margaret 
Roper or related by Sir Thomas to Margaret, or, perhaps, told 
by Lady More herself. " When Sir Thomas," writes Roper, 
" had continued a good while in the Tower, my lady, his wife, 
obtained licence to see him. Who, at her first coming, like a 
simple, ignorant woman and somewhat worldly too, with this 
manner of salutation homely saluted him : ' W^hat a good 
year ! * Mr. More,' quoth she, ' I marvel that you, that hitherto 
have been taken for a wise man, will now so play the fool, to 
lie here in this close, filthy prison, and be content thus to be 
shut up among mice and rats, when you might be abroad at 
your liberty, and with the favour and goodwill both of the king 
and his Council, if you would but do as all the bishops and best 
learned of this realm have done. And seeing you have at 
Chelsea a right fair house, your library, your gallery, garden, 
orchard, and all other necessaries so handsome about you, where 
you might in the company of me, your wife, your children, and 
* A well-known exclamation in those daj's. 


household, be merry, I muse what (a God's name !) you mean 
here still thus fondly to tarry.' After he had awhile quietly 
heard her, with a cheerful countenance, he said unto her : ' Is 
not this house as nigh heaven as mine own ? ' To whom she, 
after her accustomed homely fashion, not liking such talk, 
answered : 'Twittle, twattle, twittle, twattle ! ' ' How say you, 
Mrs. Alice, is it not so ? ' ' Bone Deus, bone Deus, man, will 
this gear never be left ? ' quoth she. ' Well then, Mistress Alice, 
if it be so, it is very well ; for I see no great cause why I 
should much joy in my gay house, or in anything thereunto 
belonging, when, if I should but seven years lie buried under 
the ground, and then arise and come thither again, I should 
not fail to find some therein that would bid me get out of doors, 
and tell me it were none of mine. What cause have I, then, to 
like such a house as would so soon forget its master ? ' " 

Lady More was evidently one of those good souls to whom 
respectability is the law of laws, and to whom a scruple to do 
what decent people do is simply uninteUigible. She probably 
thought that too much learning or too much religion had 
driven Sir Thomas mad. Yet she meant well, and was kind 
and devoted, and was depriving herself of the very things she 
most cherished, in order to pay his weekly pension. Her 
husband, therefore, loved and esteemed her, though he could 
smile at her weaknesses, and did not expect from her a heroism 
of which she could not even frame a conception. 

Very different was his correspondence and conversation with 
his daughter Margaret. According to a marginal note in 
RastelTs edition of More's works, she had taken the oath with 
the clause " as far as it would stand with the law of God," a 
manner of swearing that the government would occasionally 
connive at. She seems to have more than once by word or 
letter tried to persuade her father to conform his conscience to 
that of the men of learning and reputation who had yielded. 
The following letters will tell their own tale. Only one of 
them, however, is dated ; this is a letter from Lady Alington, 




More's step-daughter, to Margaret Roper. It was written on 
the Monday after St. Lawrence (loth August), 1534. She 
relates an interview she had had with Audley, the lord chan- 
cellor, whose help she had asked in favour of Sir Thomas. 
Audley had easily promised this, though he declared that the 
remedy was in More's own hands, if he would put aside his 
foolish scruples ; and he had joked on the matter, relating 
some fables, of which Lady Alington says : "In good faith, 
they pleased me nothing, nor I wist not what to say, for I was 
abashed of this answer ; and I see no better suit than to 
Almighty God, for He is the comforter of all sorrows ".* 
Margaret, however, took with her this letter on her next visit to 
the Tower, the details of which are related in a very long letter 
to Lady Alington, of which I must give merely an abridgment. 
After the usual prayers and some conversation about his wife 
and children, Margaret told her father that she had a letter 
which proved how his persistence was alienating his friends. 
More replied with a smile : " What, Mistress Eve ! hath my 
daughter Alington played the serpent with you, and with a 
letter set you at work to come and tempt your father again, and 
for the favour that you bear him, labour to make him swear 
against his conscience and so send him to the devil ? " And 
after that he said seriously and earnestly : '' Daughter Margaret, 
we two have talked of this thing more than twice or thrice, and 
I have told you that if it were possible for me to do the thing 
that might content the king's Grace, and God not offended, no 
man had taken this oath more gladly than I would do ". He 
explained that he had long and well weighed the matter, and 
had well considered all the possible consequences. God's 
providence had now placed him in that strait that he must 
either deadly displease God or abide any worldly harm that 
might fall for his other sins. He read Lady Alington's letter 
very carefully twice, spoke highly of her affection for him and 
of his own love for her ; he laughed at Audley's fables as being 

* English Works, p. 1433. 


nothing to the point. Audley had said that " he marvelled 
that More was so obstinate in his own conceit in a matter that 
no one scrupled save the blind bishop and he". The blind, 
that is, the obstinate bishop, was, of course, Blessed John 
Fisher of Rochester. On this More remarked that no doubt 
many, both temporal and spiritual, looked on the taking of the 
oath as a mere trifle, though probably many did not really think 
this that said it ; " But though they did, daughter, it would 
not make much to me, not though I should see my Lord of 
Rochester say the same. For albeit of very truth I have him 
in that reverent estimation, that I reckon in this realm no one 
man in wisdom, learning, and long approved virtue meet to 
be compared with him, yet that in this matter I was not led by 
him very plainly appeareth, in that I refused the oath before it 
was offered to him, and in that his lordship was content to 
have sworn of that oath (as I perceived since by you) either 
somewhat more or in some other manner than ever I minded 
to do. Verily, daughter, I never intend to pin my soul at 
another man's back, not even the best man that I know this 
day living. For I know not whither he may hap to carry it. 
There is no man living of whom, while he liveth, I may make 
myself sure. Some may do for favour, and some may do for 
fear, and so might they carry my soul a wrong way. And 
some might hap to frame himself a conscience, and think that 
if he did it for fear God would forgive it. And some may 
peradventure think that they will repent and be shriven thereof, 
and that so shall God remit it to them. And some may be, 
peradventure, of the mind that, if they say one thing and think 
the while the contrary, God more regardeth the heart than the 
tongue ; and that, therefore, their oath goeth upon what they 
think and not upon what they say. But in good faith, 
Margaret, I can use no such ways in so great a matter." 

Margaret told him he was not asked to swear against his 
conscience, in order to keep other men company, but to instruct 
and reform his conscience by the consideration that such and 


SO many men considered the oath lawful, and even a duty since 
parliament required it. He replied that parliament might err, 
and explained at considerable length when a man is bound to 
give up his own private opinion or judgment. This should be 
done at the infallible decree of a general council, but not at 
the enactment of a parliament. 

" But, Margaret," he concluded, " for what cause I refuse the 
oath I will never show you, neither you nor no body else, except 
the king's Highness should like to command me. I have refused 
and do refuse the oath for more causes than one. And this I 
am sure, that of them that have sworn it, some of the best 
learned, before the oath was required, plainly affirmed the 
contrary of such things as they have now sworn, and that not 
in haste, but often and after great diligence to seek out the 
truth." Margaret caught at this, and said that probably they 
now saw more than they saw before. More would not deny 
this or condemn them, but he at least had seen no reason to 
change. He told Margaret, also, that he was not in the 
minority, as some affirmed. Throughout Christendom the 
greater part thought with him. " But go we now to them that 
are dead before, and that are, I trust, in heaven; I am sure that 
it is not the fewer part of them that, all the time while they 
lived, thought in some of the things that way that I think 

When he saw his daughter, after this discussion, sitting very 
sadly, not from any fear she had about his soul, but at the 
temporal consequences she foresaw, he smiled again and ex- 
claimed : " How now, daughter Margaret? What now, Mother 
Eve? Where is your mind now? Sit not musing with some 
serpent in your breast, upon some new persuasion to offer 
Father Adam the apple yet once again." 

" In good faith, father," replied Margaret, "I can no further 
go. For since the example of so many wise men cannot move 
you, I see not what to say more, unless I should look to per- 
suade you with the reason that Master Harry Pattenson made." 


(It will be remembered that Pattenson was More's fool, now in 
the service of the Lord Mayor.) " For," continued Margaret, 
" he met one day one of our men, and when he had asked 
where you were, and heard that you were in the Tower still, he 
waxed angry with you, and said : ' Why? what aileth him that 
he will not swear ? Wherefore should he stick to swear ? I 
have sworn the oath myself.' And so," says Margaret, " have I 
sworn." At this More laughed, and said : " That word was like 
Eve, too, for she offered Adam no worse fruit than she had eaten 

Margaret then told him that Cromwell had hinted that 
parliament was not yet dissolved, and might decree worse 
things against him. More replied that he had thought of this. 
However, no man could do him hurt without doing him wrong, 
and he trusted God would not suffer so good and wise a prince 
as Henry thus to requite the long service of his true, faithful 
servant. " Yet, since nothing is impossible, I forgot not in 
this matter the counsel of Christ in the Gospel, that ere I should 
begin to build this castle for the safeguard of mine own soul, 
I should sit and reckon what the charge would be. I counted, 
Margaret, full surely many a restless, weary night, while my 
wife slept, and thought I slept, too, what peril were possible to 
fall to me ; and in devising I had a full, heavy heart. But yet 
I thank Our Lord for all that I never thought to change, though 
the very uttermost should happen to me that my fear ran 

Margaret urged that things might appear still more terrible 
when they should actually take place, and thus perhaps it 
would be too late. This word roused her father. " Too late, 
daughter Margaret ! I beseech Our Lord that if ever I make 
such a change, it may be too late, indeed ; for well I wot the 
change can not be good for my soul." He went on to speak 
most tenderly of his trust in God to prevent his falling, or even 
to raise him up should he chance to fall like Peter, adding these 
solemn and heroic words : — 


" And finally, Margaret, this wot I very well, that, without 
my fault. He will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with 
good hope, commit myself wholly to Him ; and if He suffer 
me for my faults to perish, yet shall I thus serve for a praise of 
His justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that His tender 
pity shall keep my poor soul safe, and make me commend His 
mercy. And, therefore, mine own good daughter, never 
trouble thy mind for anything that shall happen to me in this 
world. Nothing can come but what God wills ! " He concluded 
by exhorting all his family to be resigned, to remain united, 
and to pray for him. "And if anything happen me that you 
would be loth, pray to God for me, but trouble not yourselves ; 
as I shall full heartily pray for us all that we may meet together 
once in heaven, where we shall make merry forever, and never 
have trouble after." * 

I doubt whether, in the Acts of the Martyrs, there is a nobler 
scene than this. Did ever temptation come in a more subtle 
form ? The affectionate daughter had no thought of leading 
her father to do what was unworthy of him. When we see one 
so pure and wise as Margaret Roper thus deceived, we can 
estimate the enormity of the scandal given to the laity by the 
prelates and clergy of England, and we can also estimate the 
magnificence of M ore's loyalty to conscience, that he should 
l)e in no ways swayed by that example, thus pressed upon him 
by the mouth of his accomplished and beloved daughter. 

The following letter, dealing with the same subject, has no 
date, and may perhaps have preceded the conversation related 
by Margaret to Lady Alington : " Our Lord bless you. If I 
had not l)een, my dearly beloved daughter, at a firm and fast 
point, I trust in God's great mercy this good great while before, 
your lamentable letter had not a little abashed me, surely far 
above all other things, of which I hear divers times not a few 
terrible towards me. But surely they all touched me never so near, 

* English Works, pp. 1434-1443. Rastell doubts whether More himself 
may not have written this letter. 


nor were so grievous unto me, as to see you, my well beloved 
child, in such vehement piteous manner, labour to persuade 
unto me that thing wherein I have, of pure necessity for re- 
spect unto mine own soul, so often given you so precise answer 
before. Wherein as touching the points of your letter, I can 
make none answer. For I doubt not but you well remember 
that the matters which move my conscience (without declara- 
tion whereof I can nothing touch the points) I have sundry 
times showed you that I will disclose them to no man. 

" And therefore, daughter Margaret, I can in this thing no 
further, but like as you labour me again to follow your mind, 
to desire and pray you both again to leave off such labour, 
and with my former answers to hold yourself content. A 
deadly grief unto me, and much more deadly than to hear of 
mine own death (for the fear thereof, I thank Our Lord, the fear 
of hell, the hope of heaven, and the Passion of Christ daily 
more and more assuage), is, that I perceive my good son, your 
husband, and you, my good daughter, and my good wife, and 
mine other good children and innocent friends, in great dis- 
pleasure and danger of great harm thereby. The let whereof 
while it lieth not in my hand, I can no further but commit all 
to God. Na7n in uiatiu Dei, sayeth the Scripture, cor regis est 
and siciit divisiones aquariun quociinqiie vohierit if?ipellit illiid. 
Whose high Goodness I most humbly beseech to incline the 
noble heart of the king's Highness to the tender favour of you 
all, and to favour me no better than God and myself know 
that my faithful heart towards him and my daily prayer for 
him do deserve. 

" For surely if His Highness might inwardly see my true mind 
such as God knoweth it is, it would (I trust) soon assuage his 
high displeasure : which, while I can in this world never in such 
wise show but that His (kace may be persuaded to believe the 
contrary of me, I can no further go, but put all in the hands of 
Him for fear of whose displeasure for the safeguard of my soul, 
stirred by mine own conscience (without insectation or reproach 


laying to any other man's), I suffer and endure this trouble. 
Out of which I beseech Him to bring me, when His will shall 
be, into His endless bliss of heaven, and, in the meanwhile, 
give me grace and you both in all our agonies and troubles, 
devoutly to resort prostrate unto the remembrance of that 
bitter agony, which Our Saviour suffered before His Passion at 
the Mount. And if we diligently so do, I verily trust we shall 
find therein great comfort and consolation. 

" And thus, my dear daughter, the blessed Spirit of Christ for 
His tender mercy govern and guide you all, to His pleasure 
and your weal and comforts both body and soul. 
'' Your tender, loving father, 

'' Thoaias More, Knight."* 

To this letter Margaret returned the following answer : — 

" Mine own good P'ather, — 

" It is to me no little comforth, since I cannot talk 
with you by such means as I would, at the least way to delight 
myself among in this bitter time of your absence by such means 
as I may, by as often writing to you as shall be expedient, and 
by reading again and again your most fruitful and delectable 
letter, the faithful messenger of your very virtuous and ghostly 
mind, rid from all corrupt love of worldly things, and fast knit 
only in the love of (iod and desire of heaven, as becometh a 
very true worshipper and a faithful servant of (iod, which I 
doubt not, good father, holdeth His holy hand over you and 
shall (as He hath) preserve you both body and soul {tit sit mens 
sa?ia in corpore sano), and namely, now when you have abjected 
all earthly consolations and resigned yourself willingly, gladly 
and fully for His love to His holy protection. 

" Father, what think you hath been our comfort since your 
departing from us ? Surely the experience we have had of your 
life past, and godly conversation, and wholesome counsel, and 
virtuous example, and a surety not only of the continuance of 

* English Works, p. 1431. 


that same, but also a great increase by the goodness of Our 
Lord, to the great rest and gladness of your heart, devoid of 
all earthly dregs, and garnished with the noble vesture of 
heavenly virtues, a pleasant palace for the Holy Spirit of God 
to rest in, who defend you (as I doubt not, good father, but of 
His goodness He will) from all trouble of mind and of body, 
and give me, your most loving, obedient daughter and hand- 
maid, and all us, your children and friends, to follow that that 
we praise in you ; and to our only comfort remember and com- 
mune [i.e., converse] together of you, that we may in conclusion 
meet with you, mine own dear father, in the bHss of heaven, 
to w^hich Our most merciful Lord hath bought us with His 
precious Blood. 

" Your own 
"most loving obedient daughter and bedeswoman, 

" Margaret Roper, 

which desireth above all worldly things to be in John a Woode's 
stead to do you some service. But we live in hope that we 
shall shortly receive you again ; I pray God heartily we may, if 
it be His holy will."* 

From another very affectionate letter of the same daughter I 
have already given an extract regarding her father's seclusion 
from the church.f He replied that his " close keeping again did 
of likelihood grow of his negligent and very plain true word, 
which she would remember ". He warned her to expect a new 
search in all their houses, since people would not believe he 
was really so poor as appeared by the first search. '' Which 
thing," he says, " if ever it should happen, can make but game 
to us that know the truth of my poverty, unless they find out 
my wife's gay girdle and her golden beads. Howbeit, I verily 
believe that the king's Cirace of his benign pity will take no- 
thing from her." He repeats what he had said before of his 
innocence and good conscience in refusing the oath, and the 

* English Works, p. 1432. t Supra, p. 367. 


possibility of some new, but unjust, law being made against 
him. Pie assures her that he has never prayed to be released 
from prison or delivered from death, nor wavered one moment 
at the prospect of any pain, " albeit I found myself (I cry God 
mercy) very sensual and my flesh much more shrinking from 
pain and from death than methought it the part of a faithful 
Christian man ".* This letter was written with a coal or burnt 
wood, " and other pens have I none here ". In another letter 
he says : " That your fear of your own frailty, Margaret, no- 
thing misliketh me. God give us both twain grace to despair 
of ourselves, and wholly to hang upon the strength of God. 
. . . Surely, Meg, a fainter heart than thy frail father hath 
canst thou not have. And yet I verily trust in the great mercy 
of God that He shall, of His goodness, so stay me with His 
holy hand that he shall not finally suffer me to fall wretchedly 
from His favour. . . . And verily, my dear daughter, in this is 
my great comfort, that albeit I am of nature so shrinking from 
pain that I am almost afraid of a fillip, yet in all the agonies 
that I have had, I thank the mighty mercy of God, I never in 
my mind intended to consent to do anything against my con- 
science." t 

Opportunities of writing were rarer as time went on. The 
following short letter seems to belong to the later months of 
his imprisonment : — 

" Mine own good Daughter, — 

" Our Lord be thanked, I am in good health of body, 
and in good quiet of mind ; and of worldly things I no more 
desire than I have. I beseech Him make you all merry in the 
hope of heaven. And such things as I somewhat longed to 
talk with you all concerning the world to come. Our Lord put 
them into your minds, as I trust He doth and better too by His 
Holy Spirit, who bless you and preserve you all. 

" Written with a coal by your tender loving father, who in his 

* English Works, p. 1446. f lb., p. 1446. 


poor prayers forgetteth none of you all, nor your babes, nor 
your nurses, nor your good husbands, nor your good husbands' 
shrewd wives, nor your father's shrewd wife neither, nor our 
other friends. 

" And thus fare ye heartily well for lack of paper, 

"Thomas More, Knight. 

" Our Lord keep me continually true, faithful and plain, to the 
contrary whereof I beseech Him heartily never to suffer me 
live. For as for long life (as I have often told thee, Meg) I 
neither look for nor long for, but am well content to go, if God 
call me hence to-morrow. And, I thank Our Lord, I know no 
person living that I would had one fillip for my sake ; of which 
mind I am more glad than of all the world beside. 

" Recommend me to your shrewd Will * and mine other 
sons, and to John Harris, my friend, and yourself knoweth to 
whom else, and to my shrewd wife above all, and God preserve 
you all, and make and keep you His servants all." f 

With the exception of the few visits from his wife and 
daughter in the earlier months of More's imprisonment, no 
relation or friend was allowed to communicate with him. This 
he expressly declares in a circular letter to all his friends, asking 
them to give credit to Margaret in case she should make known 
to them any necessity. :}: One or two letters were, however, 
given to him, perhaps by permission of the governor, and his 
answers have been preserved. A priest named Leader had 
heard that More had relented and taken the oath. He seems 
to have written to congratulate with him on the fact and on his 
approaching deliverance from prison. More replied : — 

"The tale that is reported, albeit I cannot .but thank you 
though ye would it were true, yet I thank God it is a very 
vanity. And I trust in the great goodness of God that He 
shall never suffer it to be true. If my mind had been obstinate 

* William Roper. t English Works, p. 1430. X lb., p. 1432. 


in deed, I would not let for any rebuke or worldly shame 
plainly to confess the truth ; for I propose not to depend upon 
the fame of the world. But I thank Our Lord that the thing 
that I do is not for obstinacy, but for the salvation of my soul, 
because I cannot induce mine own mind otherwise to think 
than I do concerning the oath. As for other men's conscience 
I will be no judge of, nor I never advised any man neither to 
swear nor to refuse. But as for mine own self, if ever I should 
mishap to receive the oath (which I trust Our Lord shall never 
suffer me), ye may reckon sure that it were expressed and ex- 
torted by duress and hard handling. For as for all the goods 
of this world, I thank Our Lord I set not much more by than 
I do by dust. And I trust both that they will use no violent 
forcible ways, and also that if they would, God would of His 
grace (and the rather a great deal through good folks' prayers) 
give me strength to stand. ' Fidelis Deus,^ saith St. Paul, ' qui 
non patitur vos tentari supra id quod potesfis ferre, sed et dat cum 
ientatioiie proventuin ut possitis sustinere.^ For this I am very 
sure that if ever I should swear it, I should swear deadly sore 
against mine own conscience. For I am very sure in my mind, 
that I shall never be able to change myne own conscience to 
the contrary. As for other men's I will not meddle of. 

" It hath been showed me that I am reckoned wilful and 
obstinate, because that since my coming hither, I have not 
written unto the king's Highness, and by mine own writing 
made some suit unto His Grace. But, in good faith, I do not 
forbear it of any obstinacy, but rather of a lowly mind and a 
reverent, because that I see nothing that I could write, but that 
I fear me sore that His Grace were likely rather to take dis- 
pleasure with me for it than otherwise, while His Grace believeth 
me not that my conscience is the cause, but rather obstinate 
wilfulness. But surely that my let is but my conscience that 
knoweth God, to whose order I commit the whole matter, ^ In 
cujus manu co?'da regu/n sunt '. I beseech Our Lord that all 
may prove as true faithful subjects to the king that have sworn. 


as I am in my mind very sure that they be which have refused 
to swear. 

" In haste this Saturday, the i6 day of January [1535]. By 
the hand of your bedesman, 

" Thomas More, Knight, 
" Prisoner."* 

Two other letters are addressed to Dr. Nicolas ^^'ilson, one 
of the king's chaplains, who had refused the oath on the same 
day as More and Fisher, and had been committed to the Tower. 
It would seem that his strength of soul \vas exhausted by a long 
solitary confinement. He found means to write to his old 
friend, Sir Thomas, suggesting doubts that now occurred to 
him regarding the force of the conclusions that had made him 
refuse the oath. More replies that he is sorry to see him thus 
agitated, but that he cannot give him any relief. When the king 
had bidden them both study the subject, they had done so to- 
gether as thoroughly as possible, and had arrived at the same 
conclusions. "Now," he says, "I neither murmur, nor 
grudge, nor make assertions, nor keep disputation on the 
matter : and, as touching the oath and the causes for which I 
refused it, no man knoweth what they be. For they be secret 
to my own conscience, some other, peradventure, than those 
that other men would ween, and such as I never disclosed to 
any man yet, nor never intend to do while I live." He meddles 
with no other man's conscience. "In mine own conscience (I 
cry God mercy) I find of mine own life matters enough to think 
upon. I have lived, methinketh, a long life, and now neither I 
look nor long to live much longer. / have^ shice I came to the 
Tower ^ looked once or twice to have given up my ghost ere this, 
and, in good faith, my heart waxed the lighter with hope there- 
of. Yet forget I not that I have a long reckoning and a great 
to give account of. But I put my trust in God, and in the 
merits of His bitter Passion, and I beseech Him to give me and 

* English Works, p. 1450. 


keep me the mind to look to be out of this world and to be 
with Him. For I can never but trust, that who so long to be 
with Him shall be welcome to Him ; and, on the other side, 
my mind giveth me verily that any that ever shall come to Him 
shall full heartily wish to be with Him ere ever he shall come at 
Him." With some affectionate words and commendation to 
his prayers, he concludes, asking him to send the letter back, 
" for though its contents are harmless, the bearer might get into 
trouble by it ".* 

It seems, however, that Dr. Wilson kept it, and wrote him a 
second letter, to which Sir Thomas answered shortly : " I per- 
ceive that you have promised to swear the oath. I beseech 
Our Lord give you thereof good luck. And whereas I perceive 
that you would gladly know what I intend to do, you wot well 
that I told you when we were both abroad, that I would therein 
neither know your mind nor no man's else ; nor you nor no 
man else should therein know mine. With God's grace I will 
follow my own conscience. What my own shall be to-morrow, 
myself cannot be sure; and whether I shall have finally the 
grace to do according to mine own conscience or not hangeth 
in God's goodness, not in mine, to whom I beseech you 
heartily to remember me in your devout prayers, and I shall 
and do daily remember you in mine, such as they be."t 

Whether Dr. Wilson was moved to recall his promise to take 
the oath I do not find recorded. From the bill of the governor's 
expenses it appears that he remained prisoner for two years and 
two months ;:{: yet at a subsequent period he got promotions 
that he could not have enjoyed without acquiescing in the 

By comparing the various expressions of Sir Thomas together, 

it seems that he was himself deterred from taking the oath of 

succession, in the form in which it was proposed to him, by 

several reasons, some of which were doctrinal, and held by the 

* English Works, p. 1443. t lb. 

Ij: Cotton MS. ; Titus, Bk. i. ; also Archceologia, xviii. 294. 


doctors of the Church ; but others were of a secret nature known 
to himself, and which he had never communicated to another, 
and would not reveal even to his daughter. Whether these had 
reference to Anne Boleyn's affinity with Henry, or her pre- 
contract of marriage with Percy, or some other impediment still 
more secret, we cannot now discover, any more than we can know 
the grounds on which Cranmer pronounced that Anne's marriage 
with Henry had been null from the beginning; it may be as 
well to anticipate somewhat, in order to conclude here what is 
told of the wreck of his property and home.'" 

Towards the end of the year 1534, the wife and children of 
Sir Thomas petitioned for his pardon and release. They 
alleged that he had remained more than eight months in the 
Tower "in great continual sickness of body and heaviness of 
heart ". " The king during that time has allowed his wife to 
retain his moveable goods and the revenues of his lands, al- 
though forfeited for his refusal of the oath ; but lately an Act 
has been made in the last parliament, not only confirming the 
former forfeiture, but causing the inheritance of all the lands 
which the said Sir Thomas had from the king, amounting to the 
annual value of ^^60, to be forfeited. All that his wife brought 
him is expended in the king's service, and she is likely to come 
to want, as also her son, who stands charged with the payment of 
certain great sums due by Sir Thomas to the king. But above all 
this, Sir Thomas is likely to die, after his long and true service to 
the king. They beseech the king to grant this their petition, con- 
sidering that his offence is not of malice or obstinacy, but of 
such a long continued and deep-rooted scruple as passeth his 
power to avoid and put away." + 

* Dr. Bailey, in his Life of Fisher, mentions several incidents of More's 
life in the Tower to which I have here made no reference — e.g., a plot 
laid to gain him over by the report that Fisher had taken the oath. In 
my Life of Blessed Fisher I have given my reasons for taking all this as 

t Arundel MS., 152, f. 300 b. ArchcBologia, xxvii, 369. 


In May, 1535, Lady More made another appeal to Crom- 
well. She had been compelled of very necessity to sell her 
apparel to provide 15s. weekly for the board wages of her poor 
husband and his servant.* Neither of these petitions found 
the slightest response in the heart of the monarch wholly given 
to feasting and pageantry, and surrounded by greedy sycophants. 

In January, 1535, the king granted to Henry Norris, "Es- 
quire of the Royal Body," the fee simple of the manors of 
DogUngton and Fringeford, in Oxfordshire, the advowson of 
Doglington Church, and Early Park, which had come into the 
king's hand by the attainder of Sir Thomas More.f 

In April, the manor of South, in Kent, with advowsons 
thereto belonging, likewise forfeited, were given to the queen's 
brother, George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford.:}: And the king's 
brother-in-law, the Duke of Suffolk, wrote to the king a few 
days after the death of the martyr, begging him not to grant 
any part of Sir Thomas More's land lying about Chelsea, be- 
cause he himself wished to have the house and lands adjoining, 
which (he says) are not above the yearly value of ^i6.§ 

* Letters and Papers, viii. 800, 

fib., viii. 149, n. i6. He had received these by royal grant in 

t lb., 632, n. 13. The manor of South had been granted to Sir 
Thomas in 1522. 

§ lb., iioi. Whether the duke obtained his request I do not perceive. 
The following are mentioned as the successive owners of More's house : 
Sir William Paulet — Gregory, Lord Dacre — Sir William Cecil, Lord 
Burghley — Sir Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury — The Earl of Lincoln — 
Sir Arthur Gorges — Lionel Cranfield, Earl of Middlesex — King Charles 
L— The Dukeof Buckingham — William Plummer— The Earl of Bristol — 
— Lady Ann Russell — The Duke of Beaufort— Sir Hans Sloane (who 
pulled it down in 1740). 



IT would seem that during the far greater part of his im- 
prisonment, Sir Thomas was allowed the use of books 
to read, as well as of pen and ink and plenty of paper. 
He composed works in Latin and English that would fill two 
good octavo volumes. All these writings w'ere devotional or 
ascetic, that is, meditations on the mysteries of faith or treatises 
on the exercise of Christian virtues. 

If I mistake not. Blessed Thomas More stands quite alone 
among the ascetic writers of the Church ; for while he is not 
inferior to the best ecclesiastics in his use of Holy Scripture, 
his knowledge of the human heart, his analysis of the workings 
of passion and the counterworkings of grace, he considered it 
his layman's privilege to use a livelier style and to illustrate his 
matter with abundance of merry stories. 

As far back as 1522, when he had lately been made a knight 
and treasurer of the kingdom, and was in the midst of all the 
splendours of Henry's court, he had sought to keep his heart 
pure and humble by composing a treatise in English on the 
words of Ecclesiasticus : ''In all thy works remember thy 
last end, and thou shalt never sin ". * Noinssifua^ the last 
things, were understood to be these four — Death, Judgment, 
Heaven, and Hell. Sir Thomas began a treatise that was to 
comprise all four, but he laid it aside before he had concluded 

* Ecclus. vii. 40. 


the first part, on Death, and the fragment was not published 
until 1557. 

" This short medicine," he says, i.e., the remembrance of the 
Last Things, " is of a marvellous force, able to keep us all our 
life from sin. This medicine, though thou makest a sour face 
at it, is not so bitter as thou makest for. He biddeth thee not 
take neither death, nor doom, nor pain, but only to remember 
them, and yet the joy of heaven therewith to temper them 
^^ithal. Now, if a man be so dainty-stomached, that going 
where contagion is, he would grudge to take a little treacle, yet 
were he very nicely wanton if he might not, at the leastwise, 
take a little vinegar and rose water on his handkercher."* 
And, indeed, in More's treatment of the matter, though he has 
barely touched on heaven, and written merely of death, there 
is far more rose water than vinegar. Not that his descriptions 
or exhortations lack strength, but that they have a literary 
interest which entices the reader to linger over the most 
appalling subjects. A few samples will show my meaning. 
Here is an allusion to the famous pictures of Death in Pardon- 
Church-Haugh at St. Paul's, London : " We were never so 
moved by the beholding of the Dance of Death pictured in 
Paul's as we shall feel ourselves stirred by the imagination in 
our hearts, of our own deaths. And no marvel ; for those 
pictures express only the loathly figure of our dead, bony bodies ; 
which, though it be ugly to behold, yet neither the sight thereof, 
nor the sight of all the dead heads in that charnel house, nor 
the apparition of a very ghost, is half so grisly as the deep con- 
ceived phantasy of death in its nature by the lively imagination 
graven in thine own heart. For there seest thou not one plain 
grievous sight of the bare bones hanging by the sinews, but 
thou seest thyself — if thou die no worse death — yet at leastwise 
lying in thy bed, thy head shooting, thy back aching, thy veins 
beating, thine heart panting, thy throat rattling, thy flesh 
trembhng, thy mouth gaping, thy nose sharping, thy legs cool- 
* English Works, p. 71. 


ing, thy fingers fumbling, thy breath shorting, all thy strength 
fainting, thy life vanishing, and thy death drawing on."* 

He thus describes the pompous funerals that were so fashion- 
able in those days : " Instead of sorrow for our sins and care 
of heaven, the devil putteth us in mind of provision for some 
honourable burying, so many torches, so many tapers, so many 
black gowns, so many merry mourners laughing under black 
hoods, and a gay hearse, with delight of goodly and honourable 
funerals, in which the foolish sick man is sometimes occupied, 
as though he thought he should stand in a window and see how 
worshipfully he shall be brought to church ". t 

The certainty and uncertainty of death he illustrates by what 
he calls " a homely example, not very pleasent, but nathless 
very true". "If there were two, both condemned to death, 
both carried out at once towards execution, of which two the 
one were sure that the place of his execution were within one 
mile, the other twenty miles off, yea, a hundred, if ye will, he 
that were in the cart to be carried a hundred miles would not 
take much more pleasure than his fellow in the length of his 
way, notwithstanding that it were a hundred times as long as 
his fellow's, and that he had hereby a hundred times as long to 
live, being sure and out of all question to die at the end. 

" Reckon me now yourself a young man in your best lust, 
twenty year of age if ye will. Let there be another ninety. 
Both must ye die ; both be ye in the cart carrying forward. 
His gallows and death standeth within ten mile at the farthest, 
and yours within eighty. I see not why ye should reckon 
much less of your death than he, though your way be longer, 
since ye be sure ye shall never cease riding till ye come at it. 

" And this is true, although ye were sure that the place of 
your execution stood so far beyond his. But what if there 
were to the place of your execution two ways, of which the 
one were fourscore mile farther about than your fellow's, the 
other nearer by five mile than his, and when ye were put in the 
* English Works, p. 77. t lb., p. 79. 


cart had warning of both ; and though ye were showed that it 
were hkely that ye should be carried the longer way, yet it 
might happen ye should go the shorter ; and whether ye 
were carried the one or the other ye should never know till ye 
come to the place, I trow ye could not in this case make much 
longer of your life than of your fellow's. Now in this case are 
we all. For Our Lord hath not endented with us of the time. 
He that appointed what we may not pass, but not how soon we 
shall go nor where nor in what wise. And, therefore, if thou 
wilt consider how little cause thou hast to reckon thy death so 
far off, by reason of thy youth, reckon how many as young as 
thou have been slain in the self-same w^ays in which thou ridest, 
how many have been drowned in the self-same waters in which 
thou rowest. 

" And thus shalt thou well see that thou hast no cause to 
look upon thy death as a thing far off, but a thing undoubtedly 
nigh thee, and ever walking with thee. By which, not a false 
imagination but a very true contemplation, thou shalt behold 
him and advise him such as he is, and thereby take occasion 
to flee vain pleasures of the flesh that keep out the very 
pleasures of the soul." * 

From his considerations on death Sir Thomas draws many 
forcible conclusions, of which the following was suggested by 
his life at court : — 

" Now, the high mind of proud fortune, rule and authority. 
Lord God ! how slight a thing it would seem to him that 
would often and deeply remember that death shall shortly take 
away all this royalty and his glory shall (as scripture saith) never 
walk with him into his grave. But he that overlooketh every 
man, and no man may be so homely (as) to come too near 
him, but thinketh that he doth much for them whom he 
vouchsafeth to take by the hand or beck upon, whom so many 
men dread and fear, so many wait upon, he shall within a few 
years, and only God knoweth within how few days, when death 
* English Works, p. 82. 


arresteth him, have his dainty body turned into stinking carrion, 
be borne out of his princely palace, laid in the ground, and 
there left alone, where every lewd lad will be bold to tread on 
his head. Would not, ween ye, the deep consideration of this 
sudden change, so surely to come, withdraw the wind that 
puffeth us up in pride upon the solemn sight of worldly worship? 

" If thou shouldst perceive that one were earnestly proud of 
the wearing of a gay golden gown while the losel playeth the 
lord in a stage play, wouldest thou not laugh at his folly, con- 
sidering that thou art very sure that when the play is done, he 
shall go walk a knave in his old coat ? Now, thou thinkest 
thyself wise enough while thou art proud in thy player's gar- 
ment, and forgettest that when thy play is done, thou 
shalt go forth as poor as he. Nor thou rememberest not that 
thy pageant may happen to be done as soon as his." * Clearly 
the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and the imperial pomps of 
Charles V., and the pageants of Whitehall and Hampton Court 
had but little blinding or dazzling power on the mind of Blessed 
Thomas More. 

This book was written the year after the execution of the 
Duke of Buckingham on a charge of high treason. Sir Thomas, 
showing how the thought of death is a remedy against the 
temptation of envy, thus illustrates the subject : " If it so were 
that thou knewest a great duke, keeping so great estate and 
princely port in his house that thou, being a right mean man, 
haddest in thine heart great envy thereat, and specially at 
some si^ecial day in which he keepeth for the marriage of his 
child a great honourable court above other times ; if thou, being 
thereat, and at the sight of the royalty and honour showed him 
of all the country about resorting to him, while they kneel and 
crouch to him, and at every word barehead begrace him ; if 
thou shouldst suddenly be advertised that for secret treason 
lately detected to the king, he should undoubtedly be taken 
the morrow, his court all broken up, his goods seized, his wife 

* English Wurks, p. 84. 


put out, his children disherited, himself cast in prison, brought 
forth and arraigned, the matter out of question, and he should 
be condemned, his coat armour reversed, his gilt spurs hewn 
off his heels, himself hanged, drawn, and quartered, how 
thinkest thou by thy faith, amid thine envy shouldest thou not 
suddenly change into pity ? " * 

One is reminded of Buckingham's cry at his arrest : — 

. . , My life is spann'd already ; 
I am the shadow of poor Buckingham : 
Whose figure even this instant cloud puts out, 
By darkening my clear sun. f 

There is one passage in this book that derives a very deep 
interest from the reflection that the author of it was to spend 
fifteen months in the Tow^r and be thence led out to execu- 
tion. " Mark this well, for of this thing we be very sure, that 
old and young, man and woman, rich and poor, prince and 
page, all the while we live in this world we be but prisoners, 
and be within a sure prison, out of which there can no man 
escape. And in worse case be we than those that be 
taken and imprisoned for theft. For they, albeit their heart 
heavily hearkeneth after the sessions, yet have they some hope, 
either to break prison the while, or to escape there by favour, 
or after condemnation some hope of pardon. But we stand all 
in another plight, we be very sure that we be already condemned 
to death, some one, some other, none of us can tell what death 
we are doomed to, but surely can we all tell that die we shall. 
And clearly know we that of this death we get no manner 
pardon. For the King, by whose high sentence we be con- 
demned to die, would not of this death pardon His own Son. 

" The prison is large, and many prisoners in it, but the 
Jailer can lose none ; He is so present in every place, that we 
can creep into no corner out of His sight. For as holy David 
saith to this Jailer : ' Whiiher shall I go from Thy Spirit, and 

* English Works, p. 86. t Shakspere, Henry VIII., Act i., sc. i. 


whither shall I flee from Thy face ? ' as who saith — no whither. 
There is no remedy, therefore, but as condemned folk and 
remediless, in this prison of the earth we drive forth a while : 
some bound to a post, some wandering abroad ; some in the 
dungeon, some in the upper ward ; some building them bowsers 
and making palaces in the prison ; some weeping, some laugh- 
ing ; some labouring, some playing ; some singing, some chiding, 
some fighting; no man almost remembering in what case he 
standeth, till that suddenly, nothing less looking for, young, 
old, poor and rich, merry and sad, prince, page, pope, and 
poor-soul priest, now one, now another, some time a great 
rabble at once, without order, without respect of age or of estate, 
all stripped stark naked, and shifted out in a sheet, be put to 
death in divers wise in some corner of the same prison, and 
even there thrown in a hole, and either worms eat him under 
ground or crows above. 

" Now come forth, ye proud prisoners, for I wis ye be no 
better, look ye never so high, when ye build in the prison a 
palace for your blood, is it not a great royalty if it be well 
considered ? Ye build the tower of Babylon in a corner of 
the piison and be very proud thereof, and some time the 
jailer beateth it down again with shame. Ye leave your 
lodging for your own blood, and the jailer, w'hen ye be dead, 
setteth a strange prisoner in your building, and thrusteth your 
blood into the other cabin. Ye be proud of the arms of your 
ancestors set up in the prison ; and all your pride is because 
ye forget that it is a prison. For if ye took the matter aright, 
the place a prison, yourself a prisoner condemned to death, 
from which ye cannot escape, ye would reckon this gear as 
worshipful as if a gentleman thief, when he should go to 
Tyburn, would leave for a memorial the arms of his ancestors 
painted on a post in Newgate. 

"Surely, I suppose that if we took not true figure for a 
phantasy, but reckoned it (as it is indeed) the very express 
fashion and manner of all our estate, men would bear them- 


selves not much higher in their hearts, for any rule or authority 
that they have here in this world, which they may well perceive 
to be indeed no better but one prisoner bearing a rule among 
the remnant, as the tapster doth in the Marshalsea ; or at the 
uttermost, one so put in trust with the jailer, that he is half 
an under-jailer over his fellows, till the sheriff and the cart 
come for him." * 

When at last, twelve years later. Sir Thomas found himself 
locked up in the upper ward of the Beauchamp Tower, very 
naturally all these thoughts recurred to his mind, and, strange 
as it may seem, he comforted himself by the consideration that 
he was in reality no more a prisoner than when he was at liberty 
or than the rest of the world. He worked out the parallel with 
great ingenuity and infinite wit in his Dialogue of Comfort 
agaifist Tribulation. One of the interlocutors, Vincent, asserts 
that the whole argument is ingenious yet unreal — in a word, 
sophistical. Antony, the other speaker, replies : " In good faith, 
cousin, such on old fool am I, that this thing, in the persuading 
whereof unto you I had weened I had quit me well, and when 
I have all done, appeareth to your mind but a trifle and a 
sophistical phantasy, myself have so many years taken for so 
substantial truth that as yet my mind cannot give me to think 
it any other. Wherefore, lest I play as the French priest played, 
that had so long used to say Doniinus, with the second syllable 
long, that at the last he thought it must needs be so, and was 

♦ English Works, p. 84. More had already expressed similar thoughts 
in a Latin epigram : — 

Damnati ac morituri in terras claudimur omnes 

Carcere, in hoc mortem carcere nemo fugit. 
Carceris in multas describitur area partes, 

Inque aliis alii partibus a;dificant. 
Non aliter quam de regno de carcere certant, 

In caico cupidus carcere condit opes. 
Carcere obambulat hie vagus, hie vincitur in antro, 

Hie servit, regit hie ; hie canit, ille gemit. 
Jam quoque dum career non tanquam career amatur, 

Hinc aliis alii mortibus extrahimur. 


ashamed to say it short ; to the intent that you may the better 
perceive me, or I the better myself, we shall here between us a 
little more consider the thing. And hardily spit well on your 
hands, and take good hold, and give it not over against your 
mind." Vincent does his best, but Antony replies to his objec- 
tions and difficulties with such skill that at last, as regards the 
matter of liberty, he has to admit that all men are God's 
prisoners. ''But," says he, "that God, our chief Jailer, useth 
any such prisonly fashion of punishment, that point I must 
needs deny. For I neither see Him lay any man in the stocks, 
or strike fetters on his legs, or so much as shut him up in a 
chamber either." Antony replies : " Is he no minstrel, cousin, 
that playeth not on a harp ? Maketh no man melody, but he 
that playeth on a lute ? He may be a minstrel and make 
melody, you wot well, with some other instrument, some strange- 
fashioned, perad venture, that never was seen before. God, our 
chief Jailer, as Himself is invisible, so useth He in His punish- 
ment invisible instruments, and, therefore, not of like fashion as 
the other jailers do, but yet of like effect, and as painful in feel- 
ing as those. For He layeth one of the prisoners with a hot 
fever as evil at his ease in a warm bed as the other jailer layeth 
his upon the cold ground. He wringeth by the brows with a 
megrim, He collareth them by the neck with a quinsy. He 
l)olteth them by the arms with a palsy, that they cannot lift 
their hands to their heads, He manacleth their hands with the 
gout in their fingers, He wringeth them by the legs with a 
cramp in their shins, He bindeth them to the bed board with 
the crick in the back, and layeth one there along, and as un- 
able to rise as though he lay by the feet fast in the stocks. 
Some prisoner of another gaol singeth, danceth in his two 
fetters, and feareth not his feet for stumbling at a stone ; while 
God's prisoner, that hath but his one foot fettered by the gout, 
lieth groaning on a couch, and quaketh and crieth out if he 
fear there would fall on his foot no more than a cushion." * 

* English Works, p. 1246. 


The above must suffice as specimens of More's ascetic 
writings. The reader will not be disappointed who goes to the 
Dialogue of Comfort in search of holy precepts, acute reason- 
ing, or brilliant wit. Indeed, in none of his writings does Sir 
Thomas so abound in humour as in these pages written while 
waiting for a traitor's death, in the dim light let in by the loop- 
holes of dungeon walls eleven feet thick. 

It does not appear to be recorded how he managed to have 
his MS. safely conveyed out of prison. The Dialogue was 
written primarily for the instruction and comfort of his own 
family ; yet its form was adapted for publication at some future 
day. He entitled it : *' ^ Dialogue of Comfort against Tribula- 
tion, made by a Hungarian in Latin, and translated out of 
Latin into French, and out of French into English ; now newly 
set forth, with many places restored and corrected by conference 
of sundry copies ".* He wished to speak clearly of the dangers 
to faith and liberty menacing England, and yet to do this 
under cover of a parable, as in his Utopia. The device was in- 
genious. The Hungarians were expecting an invasion of the 
Turks, and the choice between apostasy on the one hand, and 
death, imprisonment, or at least exclusion from public life and 
impoverishment, on the other. In this crisis a Hungarian noble, 
named Vincent, is supposed to visit his uncle Antony, who is 
near his death, and who is famed for wisdom and piety. He 
seeks advice and consolation in the tribulations that menace 
them. In the conversations which ensue the purposes and 
advantages of trials and sufferings are thoroughly considered, 
both in general and in their various species. The form of 
dialogue, as managed by More's skilful hand, lends itself to 
objections, explanations, digressions, amusing illustrations, 
which make this one of the most instructive and interesting 

* It was printed by Serjeant Rastell in the complete works in 1557, 
and by John Fowler, in Antwerp, in 1573, and in modern spelling by 
Dolman in 1847. ^ reprint, in an abridged form, by the present writer 
will appear shortly. 


books ever written " to justify the ways of God to man ". Its 
earnest and pathetic arguments are reheved by mirth, yet its 
very mirth is full of pathos when we remember the writer, and 
the time and place of its composition. Vincent is asking 
whether a man in tribulation may seek some worldly recreation, 
and amongst other things he quotes St. Thomas, that "proper, 
pleasant talking, which is called ei'rpaTreXta, is a good virtue, 
serving to refresh the mind". Antony will not deny it, and 
confesses: "Of truth, cousin, as you know very well, myself 
am of nature even half a giglot and more. I would I could as 
easily mend my fault as I can well know it ; but scant can I 
refrain it, as old a fool as I am. . . . Howbeit, let such recrea- 
tions serve us but for sauce, and make them not our meat, and 
let us pray unto God that we may feel such a savour in the 
delight of heaven, that in respect of the talking of the joys 
thereof all worldly recreation be but a grief to think on." * 
The reader may remember how the mirthfulness of More's 
conversation, as well as the earnestness and sincerity with which, 
as a young man, he would talk of eternal life, were among the 
characteristics that had most impressed Erasmus. Neither 
business nor literature, nor the wiles of diplomacy, nor the 
pomps and pleasures of courts, had robbed him of his mirth or 
dimmed his vision of eternity. The secret strength of his 
heart was this, to use his own expression, that to him "the 
sayings of Our Saviour Christ were not a poet's fable, nor a 
harper's song, but the very holy word of Almighty God 
Himself", t 

I have said that the trials of fines, confiscations, imprison- 
ment and death which were now falling on the writer of this 
Dialogue, and which (he foretells) would soon fall on all the 
faithful followers of Christ, are supposed to come from the 
Turk. Had the book fallen into the hands of Henry, the 
Defender of the Kaith could only have found treason lurking 
in its pages by identifying himself with the enemy of the 

* Book ii. ch. i. f lb., Bk. iii. ch. 15. 


Christian name. It is probable, however, that Margaret Roper 
secretly conveyed the MS. from the Tower and kept it for a 
safer day. 

His other devotional writings, as prayers, meditations, and 
the treatise on the Passion, may have been seized by those who 
were sent to take from him his books and writing material upon 
the discovery of his correspondence with Blessed John Fisher 
in June, 1535 ; but as they were seen to be harmless they were 
given to his family. Of the treatise on the Passion, which 
though imperfect is very lengthy, I must say a few words. It 
was written by Sir Thomas partly in Latin and partly in English. 
He begins with long meditations on the creation and fall of 
angels and of men, and the redemption. Then for the Passion, 
adopting the concordance of the Gospels by Gerson, he develops 
each word in very learned and devout reflections. These w^re 
evidently the result of his life-study of Our Lord's Passion. 
The long catena of quotations from Greek and Latin Fathers 
on the Blessed Sacrament proves that he had either many 
books at hand or (more probably) that his note-books were 
already well stored. The plotting of Judas, the washing of the 
disciples' feet by Our Lord, and the institution of the Holy 
Eucharist, complete the part written by Sir Thomas in English.* 
In Latin he had continued the history of the Agony in the 
Garden, and had just reached the words, " They laid hands on 
Jesus," when the hands of Henry's officials were laid on his 
books and he knew that the time of his own passion had come. 
The second part was translated by a daughter of Margaret 
Roper, Mistress Basset, who was attendant on Queen Mary, 
and who, with her mother's learning in the Latin tongue, has 
caught perfectly her grandfathers English style. 1 

I conclude this notice of More's ascetic writings by a trans- 

* English Works, pp. 1270-1349. This part is not in the Latin works. 

+ She is called "niece" in the old folio; but the words "nephew" 
and "niece" in those days were equivalent to our "grandson" and 
"granddaughter" {ncpotcs). 


lation of a few lines of a Latin tract found among the martyr's 
papers, with the title : " Death for the faith is not to be 
shunned " : — 

" If you save your life to-day by offending God, you will hate 
it to-morrow, and lament that you did not undergo death yes- 
terday. For you will call to mind that death has still to be en- 
dured, and you will not know what kind of death it will be, 
nor how soon it will come. And you will have reason to fear 
lest your death, thus postponed a little, shall be followed by the 
torments of hell, in which men will desire to die, but death 
will flee from them ; whereas the eternal joys of heaven would 
have followed that death from which you have fled. What 
folly by trying to avoid temporal death to incur death eternal, 
while you do not really avoid temporal death but merely post- 
pone it ! If you escape death now, can you live for ever, or die 
without pain ? When the fatal sickness comes and the pains 
of death begin to press upon you, oh ! how you will wish that 
you had already endured for your soul's salvation a death how- 
ever cruel.'' * 

Clearly the holy prisoner, before the charge of treason was 
made against him, had a presentiment of a violent death, and 
that his death would be endured not only without crime against 
his sovereign, but for the faith of his Divine Master : or, in 
other words, that a martyr's crown would in all 
offered to him ; and for this he prepared himself with fear and 
trembling, as well as with peace and hope. 

* Quod mors pro fide non sit fugienda — a short treatise of about two 
pages. I do not recognise the phrase of Sir Thomas, though no doubt it 
was printed from a paper in his handwriting. 



THE parliament which ]More had opened in 1529 met for 
another session in November, 1534. It passed the fol- 
lowing Acts, to which he owes his martyrdom : — 

Chapter I. says: "Albeit the king's Majesty justly and 
rightfully is, and ought to be, supreme head of the Church of 
England, and so is recognised by the clergy of this realm in 
their convocations ; yet, nevertheless, for corroboration and 
confirmation thereof, and for increase of virtue in Christ's 
religion within this realm of England, and to repress and ex- 
tirpate all errors, heresies, and other enormities and abuses 
heretofore used in the same, be it enacted, by the authority of 
this present parliament, that the king, our sovereign lord, his 
heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall be taken, ac- 
cepted, and reputed, the only supreme head in earth of the 
Church of England, called Anglicana Ecdesia^ and shall have 
and enjoy, annexed and united to the imperial crown of this 
realm, as well the title and style thereof as all honours, digni- 
ties, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity of 
supreme head of the said Church belonging and appertaining. 

" And that our said sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, 
kings of this realm, shall have full power and authority, 
from time to time, to visit, repress, redress, reform, order, cor- 
rect, restrain, and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, 


offences, contempts, and enormities, whatsoever they be, which 
by any manner of spiritual authority or jurisdiction, ought to 
be or may lawfully be reformed, repressed, ordered, redressed, 
corrected, restrained, or amended, most to the pleasure of 
Almighty God, the increase of virtue in Christ's religion, or for 
the conservation of the peace, unity, and tranquillity of this 
realm, any usage, custom, foreign laws, foreign authority, pre- 
scription, or any other thing or things to the contrary hereof 

By the thirteenth chapter of the same year it was made high 
treason for any person after the first day of February next 
coming (/>., February, 1535, neiv style) "maliciously to wish, 
will, or desire by words or writing, or by craft imagine, invent, 
practise, or attempt any bodily harm to be done or committed 
to the king's most royal person, the queen's, or their heirs ap- 
parent, or deprive them or any of them of their dignity, title or 
name of their royal estates, or slanderously and maliciously 
publish and pronounce, by express writing or words, that the 
king, our sovereign lord, should be heretic, schismatic, tyrant, 
infidel, etc." 

There was a good deal of hesitation at making hasty words 
treason, and the word "maliciously" had been purposely intro- 
duced to exempt from the penalties of high treason words 
uttered incautiously, or words spoken soberly and as the result 
of conviction, but with no purpose of rebellion or sedition. 
This parliamentary precaution proved vain, for the judges (as 
we shall see) not only explained the word "maliciously" as 
belonging necessarily to all words spoken, but made even 
silence malicious and equivalent to denial. 

Sir Thomas, whose imprisonment was in itself a perpetual 
profession of faith, had all along resolved to maintain a perfect 
silence, so as in no way to provoke persecution, but to wait 
quietly on the Providence of God. Silence, however, was too 
loud a protest to please the king, and the wretched monarch, 
angry that a year's imprisonment had wrung no compliance 


from his former councillor and friend, determined to try the 
force of the new instrument that parliament had placed in his 
hand. It did not, indeed, authorise scrutiny into anyone's 
opinions, but his slavish Council made no such objection when 
he commissioned some of them to proceed to the Tower and 
interrogate More and Fisher. More has himself told the result 
in the following letter :— 

" My Dearly Beloved Daughter, — 

" Our Lord bless you. I doubt not but by the reason 
of the king's councillors resorting hither, in this time in which 
(Our Lord be their comfort) these fathers of the Charter- 
house and Master Reynoldes of Sion, be now judged to death 
for treason (whose matters and causes I know not), may hap 
to put you in trouble and fear of mind concerning me being 
here a prisoner, specially for that it is not unlikely that you 
have heard that I was brought also before the Council here my- 
self. I have thought it necessary to advertise you of the very 
truth, to the end that you should neither conceive more hope 
than the matter giveth, lest upon another term it might agrieve 
your heaviness ; nor more grief and fear than the matter giveth 
on the other side. 

"Wherefore, shortly ye shall understand, that on Friday, the 
last day of April, in the afternoon. Master Lieutenant came in 
here unto me, and showed me that Master Secretary would 
speak with me. Whereupon I shifted my gown, and went out 
with Master Lieutenant into the gallery to him, where I met 
many — some known and some unknown — in the way. And in 
conclusion, coming into the chamber where his mastership sat, 
with Master Attorney, Master Solicitor, Master Bedyll, and 
Master Dr. Tregonwell, I was offered to sit down with them, 
which in no wise I would. 

" Whereupon Master Secretary showed unto me that he 
doubted not but that I had, by such friends as hither had re- 
sorted to me, seen the new statutes made at the last sitting of 


the parliament. Whereunto I answered, yea, verily. How- 
beit, for as much as being here I have no conversation with 
any people, I thought it little need for me to bestow much 
time upon them, and, therefore, I redelivered the book shortly, 
and the effect of the statutes I never marked nor studied to 
put in remembrance. Then he asked me, whether I had not 
read the first statute of them of the king being head of the 
Church. Whereunto I answered, yes. Then his mastership 
declared unto me, that since it was now by Act of Parliament 
ordered that His Highness and his heirs be, and ever of right 
have been, and perpetually should be, supreme head on earth 
of the Church of England under Christ, the king's pleasure was, 
that those of his Council there assembled should demand mine 
opinion and what my mind was therein. Whereunto I 
answered, that in good faith I had well trusted that the king's 
Highness would never have commanded any such question to 
be demanded of me, considering that I^ever from the beginning 
■well and truly from time to time declared my mind unto his 
Highness; and since that time (I said) unto your mastership, 
Master Secretary, also, both by mouth and by writing. And 
now I have in good faith discharged my mind of all such 
matters, and neither will dispute kings' titles nor Popes' ; but 
the king's true, faithful subject I am and will be, and daily I 
pray for him, and all his, and for you all that are of his honour- 
able Council, and for all the realm. And otherwise than this 
I never intend to meddle. Whereunto Master Secretary 
answered, that he thought this manner of answer should not 
satisfy nor content the king's Highness, but that His (irace would 
exact a more full answer. And his mastership added thereunto, 
that the king's Highness was a prince, not of rigour, but of 
mercy and pity. And though that he had found obstinacy at 
some time in any of his subjects, yet when he should find them 
at another time conformable and submit themselves. His (irace 
would show mercy ; and that concerning myself, His Highness 
would be glad to see me take such conformable ways, as I 



might be abroad in the world again among other men, as I have 
been before. Whereunto shortly (after the inward affection of 
my mind) I answered for a very truth, that I would never meddle 
in the world again, to have the world given me. And to the 
remnant of the matter I answered in effect as before, showing 
that I had fully determined with myself neither to study nor 
meddle with any matter of this world, but that my whole study 
should be upon the Passion of Christ, and mine own passage 
out of this world. 

" Upon this I was commanded to go forth for a while, and 
after called in again. At which time Master Secretary said unto 
me, that though I were a prisoner condemned to perpetual 
prison, yet I was not thereby discharged of mine obedience and 
allegiance unto the king's Highness. And thereupon demanded 
me, whether that I thought that the king's Grace might not 
exact of me such things as are contained in the statutes, and 
upon like pains as he might upon other men. Whereto I 
answered that I would not say the contrary. Whereunto 
he said, that likewise as the king's Highness would be gracious 
to them that be found conformable, so His Grace would fol- 
low the course of his laws towards such as he shall find 
obstinate. And his mastership said farther, that my de- 
meanour in that matter was a thing that of likelihood made 
other so stiff therein as they be. Whereto I answered, that I 
gave no man occasion to hold any point one or other, nor 
never gave any man advice or counsel therein one way or 
other. And for conclusion I could no farther go, whatsoever 
pain should come thereof. ' I am (quoth I) the king's true, 
faithful subject and daily bedesman, and pray for His Highness, 
and all his, and all the realm. I do nobody no harm, I say 
none harm, I think none harm, but wish everybody good. 
And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith 
I long not to live. And I am dying already, and have, since 
I came here, been divers times in the case that I thought to 
die within One hour. And I thank Our Lord I was never sorry 


for it, but rather sorry when I saw the pang past. And, there- 
fore, my i^oor body is at the kinf^'s pleasure. Would God my 
death might do him good.' After this Master Secretary said : 
'Well, ye find no fault in that statute ; find you any in any of 
the other statutes after?' Whereto I answered: 'Sir, whatsoever 
thing should seem to me other than good in any of the ether 
statutes, or in that statute either, I would not declare what fault 
I found, nor speak thereof. Whereunto finally his mastership 
said full gently, that of any thing that I had spoken there 
should none advantage be taken. And whether he said farther 
that there was none to be taken I am not well remembered. 
But he said that report should be made unto the king's Highness, 
and his gracious pleasure known. 

" Whereupon, 1 was delivered again to Master Lieutenant, 
which was then called in. And so was I by Master Lieutenant 
brought again into my chamber. And here am I yet in such 
case as I was, neither better or worse. That that shall follow 
lieth in the hand of God, whom I beseech to put in the king's 
(xrace's mind that thing that may be to His high pleasure, and 
in mine to mind only the weal of my soul, with little regard of 
my body, and you with all yours, and my wife, and all my 
children, and all our other friends, both bodily and ghostly 
heartily well to fare. 

" x\nd I pray you and them all pray for me and take no 
thought whatsoever shall happen me ; for I verily trust in the 
goodness of God, seem it never so evil to this world, it shall 
indeed in another world be for the best. 

" Your loving father, 

"Thomas More, Knight." 

On receiving this letter Margaret again made earnest suit to 
visit her father, and it was probably in the hope that her 
presence would bend him that her suit was granted. Something 
very different took place. Her visit was on 4th ]\Lay, the day 
of the martyrdom of the Carthusians and others. Roper's 
words have made this interview famous : " As Sir Thomas 


More was looking out of his window, he chanced to behold one 
Master Reynolds, a religious, learned, and virtuous father of 
Sion, and three monks of the Charterhouse, for the matter of 
the supremacy and matrimony going out of the Tower to 
execution ; he, as one longing in that journey to have accom- 
panied them, said unto my wife, then standing there beside 
him : ' Lo, dost thou not see, Meg, that these blessed fathers 
be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms 
to their marriage ? Wherefore, thereby mayest thou see, mine 
own good daughter, what a great difference there is between 
such as have ineffect spent all their days in a strait and peniten- 
tial and painful life religiously, and such as have in the world, 
like worldly wretches (as thy poor father hath done), consumed 
all their time in pleasure and ease licentiously. For God, 
considering their long-continued life in most sore and grievous 
penance, will no longer suffer them to remain here in this vale 
of misery, but speedily hence taketh them to the fruition of 
His everlasting Deity. Whereas thy silly father, Meg, that like 
a wicked caitiff hath passed forth the whole course of his 
miserable life most sinfully, God, thinking him not worthy so 
soon to come to that eternal felicity, leaveth him here still in 
this world further to be plagued and turmoiled with misery.' "* 
On 7th May, some members of the Council again visited the 
Tower and interrogated both Fisher and More. The following 
letter has no date, but from the names of the councillors being 
different from those who are known to have visited the Bishop 
of Rochester on that day, it seems to refer to a subsequent 
interrogation on 3rd June. It is addressed to Margaret 
Roper : — 

* The martyrs of the 4th May were : Blessed John Houghton, Blessed 
Augustine Webster, Blessed Robert Lawrence, all Carthusian priors ; 
Blessed Richard Reynolds, a Bridgetine monk ; and Blessed John Hale, 
vicar of Isleworth. They were drawn on hurdles from the Tower to 
Tyburn, where they were hung, cut down alive, brutally mutilated and 


" Our Lord bless you and all yours. Forasmuch (dearly 
beloved daughter) as it is likely that you either have heard 
or shortly shall hear that the Council were here this day, 
and that I was before them, I have thought it necessary to 
send you word how the matter standeth. And verily, to be 
short, I perceive little difference between this time and the 
last. For as far as I can see, the whole purpose is, either 
to drive me to say precisely the one way, or else precisely 
the other. 

" Here sat my Lord of Canterbury, my Lord Chancellor, my 
Lord of Suffolk, my Lord of Wiltshire, and Master Secretary. And 
after my coming Master Secretary made rehearsal in what wise 
he had reported unto the king's Highness what had been said 
by His (irace's Council to me, and what had been answered by 
me to them, at mine other being before them here last, which 
thing his mastership rehearsed in good faith very well, as I 
knowlcdgcd and confessed, and heartily thanked him therefore. 
\\'hereupon he added thereunto that the king's Highness was 
nothing content nor satisfied with mine answer ; but thought 
that by my demeanour I had been occasion of much grudge and 
harm in the realm, and that I had an obstinate mind and an 
evil towards him, and that my duty was, being his subject (and 
so he had sent them now in his name upon mine allegiance to 
command me), to make a plain and a terminate answer, whether 
I thought the statute lawful or not. And that I should either 
knowledge and confess it lawful that His Highness should be 
supreme head of the Church of England, or else utter plainly 
my malignity, ^'hereto I answered that I had no malignity, 
and, therefore, I could none utter. And as to the matter, I 
could none other answer make than I had before made, which 
answer his mastership had there rehearsed. Very heavy I was 
that the king's Highness should have any such opinion of me. 
Howbeit, if there were one that had informed His Highness many 
evil things of me that were untrue, to which His Highness for 
the time gave credence, I would be very sorry that he should 


have that opinion of me the space of one day. Howbeit, if I 
were sure that other should come on the morrow by whom His 
Grace should know the truth of mine innocency, I should in 
the mean while comfort myself with consideration of that. 
And in hkewise now, though it be great heaviness to me that 
His Highness hath such opinion of me for the while, yet have 1 
no remedy to help it, but only to comfort myself with this con- 
sideration, that I know very well that the time shall come 
when God shall declare my truth towards His Grace before him 
and all the world. And whereas it might haply seem to be but 
small cause of comfort, because I might take harm here first in 
the mean while, I thanked God that my case was such here in 
this matter, through the clearness of mine own conscience, that 
though I might have pain I could not have harm. For a man 
may in such a case lose his head and have none harm. For I 
was very sure that I had no corrupt affection, but that I had 
always from the beginning truly used myself, looking first upon 
God, and next upon the king, according to the lesson that His 
Highness taught me at my first coming to his noble service, the 
most virtuous lesson that ever prince taught his servant, whose 
Highness to have of me now such opinion is my great heaviness. 
But I have no mean, as I said, to help it, but only comfort 
myself in the mean time with the hope of that joyful day, in 
which my truth toward him shall well be known. And in this 
matter further I could not go, nor other answer thereto I could 
not make. 

"To this it was said by my Lord Chancellor and Master 
Secretary both, that the king might by his laws compel me to 
make a plain answer thereto either the one way or the other. 
Whereto I answered that I would not dispute the king's 
authority what His Highness might do in such a case. But I 
said that verily, under correction, it seemed to me somewhat 
hard. For if it so were that my conscience gave me against 
the statute (wherein how my conscience giveth me I make 
no declaration), then I nothing doing nor nothing saying against 


the Statute, it were a very hard thing to compel me to say, 
either precisely with it against my conscience to the loss of my 
soul, or precisely against it to the destruction of my body. 

" To this Master Secretary said, that I had, ere this, when I 
was chancellor, examined heretics, and thieves, and other male- 
factors, and gave me great praise above my deserving in that 
behalf. And he said, that I then, as he thought, and at the 
least wuse bishops, did use to examine heretics, whether they 
believed the Pope to be head of the Church, and used to com- 
pel them to make a precise answer thereto. And why should 
not then the king, since it is a law made here that His Grace is 
head of the Church here, compel men to answer precisely to 
the law here, as they did then concerning the Pope. I an- 
swered and said, that I protested that I intended not to defend 
my part or stand in contention. But I said there was a differ- 
ence between those two cases, because that at that time, as 
well here as elsewhere through the corps of Christendom, the 
Pope's power was recognised for an undoubted thing ; which 
seemeth not like a thing agreed in this realm, and the contrary 
taken for trutli in other realms. Whereto Master Secretary 
answered, that they were as well burned for the denying of 
that as they be beheaded for the denying of this ; and, there- 
fore, as good reason to compel them to make precise answer to 
the one as to the other. Whereto I answered, that since in 
this case a man is not by a law of one realm so bound in his 
conscience, where there is a law of the whole corps of Christen- 
dom to the contrary in a matter touching belief, as he is by a 
law of the whole corps, though there happen to be made in 
some place a law local to the contrary, the reasonableness or 
the unreasonableness in binding a man to precise answer 
standeth not in the respect or difference between beheading 
and burning, but because of the difference in change of con- 
science, the difference standeth between beheading and hell. 
Much was there answered unto this, both by Master Secretary 
and my Lord Chancellor, over long to rehearse. 


" And, in conclusion, they offered me an oath by which I 
should be sworn to make true answer to such things as should 
be asked me on the king's behalf, concerning the king's own 
person. Whereto I answered, that verily I never purposed 
to swear any book oath more while I lived. Then they 
said, that I was very obstinate, if I would refuse that, for 
every man doth it in the Star Chamber and everywhere. 
I said that was true ; but I had not so little foresight, 
but that I might well conjecture what should be part of 
mine interrogatories, and as good it was to refuse them at 
the first as afterwards. Whereto my Lord Chancellor an- 
swered, that he thought I guessed truth, for I should see them. 
And so they were showed me, and they were but tw^ain : the 
first, whether I had seen the statute ; the other, whether I be- 
lieved that it were a lawful made statute or not. Whereupon 
I refused the oath and said further by mouth, that the first I 
had before confessed, and to the second I would make none 
answer ; which was the end of our communication, and I was 
thereupon sent away. 

" In the communication before, it was said it was marvelled 
that I stuck so much in my conscience, while at the uttermost 
I was not sure therein. Whereto I said, that I was very sure 
that mine own conscience, so informed as it is by such dili- 
gence as I have so long taken therein, may stand with mine 
own salvation. I meddle not with the conscience of them that 
think otherwise. Every man siio davino siat aid cadit.^ I am 
no man's judge. It was also said unto me, that if I had as 
lief be out of the world as in it, as I had there said, why did I 
not then speak even plain out against the statute. It appeared 
well I was not content to die, though I said so. W^hereto I 
answered, as the truth is, that I have not been a man of such 
holy living as I might be bold to offer myself to death, lest 
God, for my presumption, might suffer me to fall ; and, there- 
fore, I put not myself forward, but draw back. Howbeit, if 

* So in print. It should probably be domino. 


God draw me to it Himself, then trust I in His great mercy 
that He shall not fail to give me grace and strength. In con- 
clusion, Master Secretary said, that he liked me this day much 
worse than he did the last time. For then, he said, he pitied 
me much, and now he thought I meant not well. But God 
and I know both that I mean well, and so I pray God do by 

" I pray you be, you and mine other good friends, of good 
cheer, whatsoever fall of me, and take no thought for me, but 
pray for me, as I do, and shall do, for you and all ihem. 
" Your tender, loving father, 

" Thomas More, Knight." 

About this time it was discovered that some letters had 
passed at different times between More and Fisher. It was 
hoped that something treasonable might be discovered, or 
something that could be interpreted as conspiracy. The 
Council thereupon proceeded to make inquisition into the 
matter. Questions were drawn up and ministered to the three 
servants, Wilson, Golde, and Wood, and to any others known 
to have visited the prisoners or acted as messengers. 

Wilson, Fisher's servant, examined on 7th June, acknow- 
ledged that when he found how much importance the bishop 
attached to the word " maliciously " in the statute, he sus- 
pected that he had been counselled by More, but found that 
it was not so. It was Robert Fisher who had spoken of it to 
the bishop, and he thinks the bishop told George to call 
More's attention to it. He had heard from George that More 
told him the secretary had given him good words, but More 
would say nothing about his answer. Wilson had carried and 
had received little presents of food but no letters. " He had 
sent Mr. More's servant half a custard on Sunday last, and 
long since green-sauce. More, or his servant, sent him an 
image of St. John, and apples and oranges, after the snow that 
fell last winter. On New Year's Day More sent him a paper 


with writing, 2000/. in gold,* and an image of the Epiphany." 
He had often suspected George of carrying letters between Mr. 
More and the bishop, indeed he gave George a letter to More 
from my lord, since the first examination. The servants had 
agreed to deny any letters being sent, but not to forswear 
themselves. Had heard the bishop tell George he might say 
he had never carried any letters on the king's business. 

Interrogated again on 8th June, he admitted that the bishop 
wrote a letter to More, which was not closed, and told Wilson, 
if George was sober, to give it him to be delivered, which he 
did. Does not know whether George brought any answer, 
but heard him say that Mr. More was merry, and that my 
lord was satisfied. The bishop had told him that the Council 
had blamed the lieutenant very sore for his negligence in keep- 
ing himself and Mr. More, thinking they had had counsel of 
each other, which was an error. 

George Golde, the lieutenant's servant, examined on 8th 
June, acknowledged that he had carried about a dozen letters 
between More and Fisher, some written with ink and some 
with coal, and that he had been told both by Fisher and 
More to burn some of these. More had also written four letters 
to his daughter, Mrs. Roper. Examined again on 9th June, he 
said that Bonvisi sent to More, two or three times a week, meat 
and a bottle of wine, till a quarter of a year ago, since when he 
had sent none. 

John a Wood, More's servant, was examined on the loth; said 
that about a fortnight after the first being of the Council in the 
Tower, George, the lieutenant's servant, came to More, and 
asked him from the bishop what answer he had made. More 
replied that he would not dispute of the king's title, but give 
himself to his beads and think on his passage hence; and this 
he wrote in a letter to be given to Fisher. Soon after he sent 
another letter by George, to the effect that he would counsel 

* As More had not a piece of gold of his own, was this New Year's 
present a drawing of bags of gold ? 


Fisher not to make the same answer, lest the Council might 
think they had agreed, and that he could meddle with no 
man's conscience but his own. After the Council were at 
the Tower, the bishop sent to tell More what answer he had 
made ; does nor know if More replied. Next day he declared 
that on the morning after the Council came to the Tower his 
master told him that his daughter, Roper's wife, wished to 
know what had taken place, and he wrote her three letters.* 

Nothing of any importance regarding Sir Thomas was elicited 
from any of the other messengers. On 12th June, the Bishop 
of Rochester was interrogated. Of his answer I give only 
what regards More. About four letters had passed between 
them concerning the matters mentioned in the question. More's 
first letter was to ask him what answer he had given to the 
Council in the matter for which he \vas first committed. He 
had sent a reply.f George Golde showed him a letter from 
More to his daughter, stating that when the Council had 
proposed to him the matter about which they came, he said 
he would not dispute about the king's title, and the secretary 
had given him good words. He had then sent a letter by 
George to know his answer more precisely, but does not 
recollect his reply. Wrote also to More about the word 
" maliciously " in the statute, but did not ask More's advice. 
More thought that their answers w^ould be much alike, and 
that the Council would suppose that one had taken light of 
the other, and he wrote to Fisher to avoid this suspicion. 
After the Council was last at the Tower, and Mr. More's 
books were taken from him, George told the bishop that 
More was in a '' peck of troubles," and wished to know 
Fisher's answer. He wrote that he had appealed to the 
statute, and had begged not to be forced to reply to the 

* Litters and Papers, viii. 856. Mr. Gairdner, with great difficulty, 
has put together and read the twenty-one mutilated papers containing 
the above and other details. 

t This was in July, 1534, as appears from More's answers. 


interrogations. He had burnt the letters lest they should 
bring any blame on the lieutenant.* 

On the 14th, interrogations were administered to Sir Thomas 
More. He denied that any communication had passed between 
himself and any one else concerning the Acts of Succession, of 
supreme head, or the Act making it treason to speak certain 
words of the king. He had written divers scrolls to Dr. Fisher, 
and received others from him, containing for the most part 
nothing but comforting words and thanks for meat and drink 
sent by one to the other. But about a quarter of a year after 
his coming to the Tower he wrote to Fisher^ saying he had re- 
fused the oath, and never intended to tell the Council why; 
and Fisher answered that he had not refused to swear to the 
succession. No other letters passed touching the king's affairs 
till the Council came to examine upon the Act of Supreme 
Head, but after his examination he received a letter of Fisher 
desiring to know his answer. He had replied stating that he 
meant not to meddle, but fix his mind on the Passion of Christ, 
or words to that effect. He afterwards received another letter 
from Fisher stating that he was informed the word "maliciously" 
was used in the statute, and suggesting that, therefore, a man 
who spoke nothing of malice did not offend the statute. He 
replied that he agreed, but feared it would not be so interpreted. 
Did not report to Fisher his answer to the Council, with the 
advice to make his own answer different, lest the Council should 
suspect confederacy.f After his last examination, sent Fisher 
word by a letter, that Mr. Solicitor had informed him that it 
was all one not to answer, and to say against the statute what a 

""' Letters and Papers, n. 858. 

t This seems contrary to the testimony of the bishop and of More's own 
servant. Perhaps the discrepancy may be explained by supposing that it 
was John a Wood who officiously gave the advice as if from More, and 
that Fisher's memory was inaccurate as to its being in a letter. More 
was so circumspect as regards writing or speaking, that it is very unlikely 
he should have written so compromising a document and have communi- 
cated its contents to a gossiping servant. John a Wood could not read. 


man would, as all the learned men of England would justify. 
He therefore said he could only reckon on the uttermost, and 
desired Fisher to pray for him, as he would for Fisher. 

And considering that it would come to the ears of his 
daughter, how the Council had been with him, and other things 
might be reported which would cause her to take sudden fright ;* 
and fearing that, being, as he thought, with child, she might 
take harm, he sent to her, both after his first examination and 
after his last, letters telling her the answers he had given, and 
that he could not tell what the end might be, but, whatever it 
were, he prayed her to take it patiently and pray for him. 

She had written him before divers letters, advising him to 
accommodate himself to the king's pleasure, especially urging 
this in her last. 

Other letters he neither sent nor received from any person. 
George, the lieutenant's servant, carried the letters to and fro. 
There is none of these letters forthcoming. He would have 
had George keep them, and George always said there was no 
better keeper than the fire. When he saw this he desired George 
to let some trusty friend of his read them, and if he saw any 
matter of importance in them, he might report it to the Council 
and get thanks ; otherwise that he should deliver them. But 
(leorge said he feared the lieutenant, who had ordered him not 
to meddle with such matters, and so burned them. 

After this the Council proposed the three great questions : — 

1. \\'hether he would obey the king as supreme head? 

He can make no answer. 

2. AVhether he will acknowledge the king's marriage with 

Queen Anne to be lawful and that with Lady Katha- 
rine invalid ? Never spoke against it ; can thereunto 
make no answer. 

* The original word is " flight," which is not to be understood in its 
modern sense. We still use the word "flighty," of one subject to sudden 


3. Where it was objected to him that by the said statute 
he, as one of the king's subjects, is bound to answer 
the said question, and recognise the king as supreme 
head, hke all other subjects. He can make no 
On the discovery of the correspondence between More and 
Fisher, the Council sent Mr. Rich the Solicitor-General, Sir 
Richard Southwell, and a servant of Cromwell named Palmer, 
to take from Sir Thomas all his books and writing materials.f 
Of a conversation which took place on this occasion an account 
will be given in the next chapter. Stapleton adds that when 
his books were gone Sir Thomas closed the shutters of his 
narrow window and sat in the dark, not in gloomy despair, but 
to meditate more freely on the joys of heaven. The lieutenant, 
finding him thus one day, asked him the reason. Sir Thomas 
replied merrily that as the wares were all gone the shop win- 
dows might as well be shut. Cresacre More, his great-grand- 
son, says : " Yet still, by stealth, he would get little pieces of 
paper, in which he would write divers letters with a coal ; of 
which my father left me one which was to his wife [i.e., to More's 
wife] which I account as a precious jewel, afterwards drawn over 
by my grandfather's son with ink". 

* Letters and Papers, n. 867. f Roper's Notes. 

Life of More, ch. ix. 



" /^"^ CrrV of London," exclaimed Cardinal Pole, " yoa 
\^_y saw led out from prison on a charge of treason the 
man at whose tribunal you had so lately beheld others 
standing for a similar crime ; the man whom you had known 
as a boy, a youth, and whom you had marked in later life, as, 
amid the applause and congratulations of all, he mounted 
through every grade of honour, until he reached the very 
highest office. And because he was your own citizen and 
child, not without a secret sense of joy you beheld his pros- 
perous career tending always to your own praise and honour. 
You saw him at last led out as a criminal from prison, in sordid 
dress, and grown old, not by the lapse of years, but by the 
squalor and sufferings of his dungeon, and for the first time 
you beheld his head made white by long confinement ; you saw 
his weak and broken body leaning on a staff, and even so- 
scarcely able to stand, and dragged along the way that led to 
the place of trial, or rather of certain condemnation. Could 
you see this spectacle with dry eyes ? Or could you without 
tears see him return by the same road condemned to the 
penalty of traitors, while you knew that his fidelity towards 
yourself could never be shaken by bribes or threats ? How, in- 
deed, could the citizens of London be unmoved, when I see 
utter strangers, who never knew him and never received benefit 
from him, conceive such sorrow in reading the story of his trial 


3rd June More gave the same answer. Lastly, that on 12th 
June there was a dialogue between Richard Rich, the solicitor- 
general, and More, which is there detailed. 

The said Richard Rich charitably moved Sir T. More to be 
conformable to the before-mentioned laws, to which More 
replied: "Your conscience will save you and my conscience 
will save me". Rich then, protesting that he was speaking 
without authority, said : " Supposing that it w^ere enacted by 
parliament that I, Richard Rich, should be king, and that it 
should be treason to deny the same, what would be the offence 
if you, Sir T. More, was to say that I, Rich, was king ; for 
certain it is that in my conscience (said Rich) you would be 
obliged so to accept me for king, because you would be bound 
by the Act of Parliament ". To which More then and there 
answered, " that he should offend if he were to say no, for he 
was obliged by the Act, because he could give his consent to 
the same ". But he said that was a light case, wherefore the 
said Thomas More further said to Rich that he would put a 
higher case : " Suppose it should be enacted by parliament 
quod Dens non esset Dens [that God were not God], and that 
opposing the act should be treason ; and if it were asked of 
you, Richard Rich, whether you would say that God were not 
God according to the statute, and if you were to say no, would 
you offend ? " To which Rich answered More : " Certainly ; 
because it is impossible that God were not God. But because 
your case is so high, I will put a medium one. You know that 
our lord the king is constituted chief head on earth of the Church 
of England ; and why. Master More, can you not affirm to 
accept the same, just as you would in the preceding case that 
I should be made king, in which case you agree that you would 
be obliged to acknowledge and accept me as king?" To which 
More, persevering in his treasons, answered to Rich, that the 
cases were not similar ; because " the king can be made by par- 
liament and deprived by parliament, to which Act every subject 
being in parliament gives his consent ; but in the first case the 


subject cannot be obliged, because his consent cannot be given 
for that in parhament, and although the king might be so 
accepted in England, yet many do not assent to the same in 
foreign parts ".* 

Such was Rich's testimony as recited in the indictment. It 
bears on the face of it the evidence of forgery ; for who can 
think for a moment that More would thus speak to a man like 
Rich on the power of parliament to depose kings, or on the 
recent statute of supremacy? But we shall hear More's own 
statement. Official documents do not give the pleadings at 
the trial ; but a few days after More's death there appeared on 
the continent a French account of his speeches, which was 
immediately spread through Europe and translated into many 
languages. It bears intrinsic evidence of truth : in the first 
place, because it entirely corresponds with the indictment ; 
and secondly, because More's answers are in exact conformity 
with what he had written in the various letters given in previous 
chapters — letters, of course, unknown to the writer. f 

"On the ist July, 1535, Master Thomas Morus, formerly 
chancellor of England, was brought before the judges, and the 
accusations against him read in his presence. The chancellor 
and the Duke of Norfolk turned to him and said : 'You, 
Master More, have gravely erred against the king ; neverthe- 
less we hope by his clemency that if you repent and correct 
your obstinate opinion, in which you have so rashly persevered, 

* The account of the conversation in all previous biographies is that 
given by Roper. It is substantially the same, but contains a proposition 
about Rich being made Pope, which More rejects. Roper had probably 
no other authority than the indictment and More's answer as related to 
him. He mentions, however, that the supposed conversation took place 
in presence of Sir Richard Southwell and Mr. Palmer while More's books 
were being packed up. 

t MS. Bibl. Nat,, Paris. Castlenau's Memoirs i, 415 (ed. 1731, 
Brussels). The following is the translation given by Mr. Gairdncr. I 
have compared it with the French, and added a few words that had been 
omitted (see Letters and Papers, viii. p. 394). 


you will receive pardon '. He replied : ' My lords, I thank you 
very heartily for your good will. I pray God preserve me in 
my just opinion even to death. As to the accusations against 
me, I fear words, memory, and judgment would alike fail me 
to reply to such a length of articles, especially considering my 
present imprisonment and great infirmity.' A chair was then 
ordered to be placed for him, and he proceeded as follows : — 
" ' As to the first article, charging me with having always 
maliciously opposed the king's second marriage, I w^ill only 
answer that what I have said has been according to my con- 
science. I never wished to conceal the truth, and if I had, I 
should have been a traitor. For this error, if error it should 
be called, I have been condemned to perpetual imprisonment,, 
which I have already suffered for fifteen months, and my goods 
confiscated. For this reason I will only reply to the principal 
charge against me, that I have incurred the penalty of the 
statute made in the last parliament since I was in prison, by 
refusing to the king, maliciously, falsely, and traitorously, his 
title of Supreme Head of the Church of England, in proof of 
which you allege my reply to the secretary and Council, that as 
I was dead to the world, I did not care to think of such things, 
but only of the Passion of Christ. I reply that your statute 
cannot condemn me to death for such silence, for neither your 
statute nor any laws in the world punish people except for 
words and deeds — surely not for keeping silence.' To this the 
king's proctor replied that such silence was a certain proof 
of malice intended against the statute, especially as every faith- 
ful subject, on being questioned about the statute, was obliged 
to answer categorically that the statute was good and whole- 
some. ' Surely,' replied More, ' if vvhat the common law* says 
is true, that he who is silent seems to consent, my silence 
should rather be taken as approval than contempt of your 

*■ " Ce que Ton dit vulgairement." But the Spanish version says : " Lo 
que el directio comun dire ". Erasmus translates it : "Si verum est quod 
habelur in legibus". 


Statute. You say that all good subjects are obliged to reply ; 
but I say that the faithful subject is more bound to his conscience 
and his soul than to anything else in the world, provided his 
conscience, like mine, does not raise scandal or sedition, and I 
assure you that I have never discovered what is in my conscience 
to any person living. 

" ' As to the second article, that I have conspired against the 
statute by writing eight letters * to the Bishop of Rochester, ad- 
vising him to disobey it, I could wish these letters had been 
read in public, but as you say the bishop has burnt them, I 
will tell you the substance of them. Some were about private 
matters connected with our old friendship. Another was a 
reply to one of his asking how I had answered in the Tower to 
the first examination about the statute. I said that I had in- 
formed my conscience, and so he also ought to do the same. 
I swear that this was the tenor of the letters, for which I cannotf 
be condemned by your statute. 

'"Touching the third article, that when I was examined by 
the Council, I answered that your statute was like a two-edged 
sword, for he who approved it would ruin his soul, and he who 
contradicted it his body; and that the Bishop of Rochester 
answered similarly, showing that we were confederates : I reply 
that I only answered thus conditionally, that supposing a 
statute to cut thus both ways like a two-edged sword, how could 
a man behave so as not to incur either danger ? I do not know 
how the bishop replied, but if he answered like me, it must 
have been from the agreement between us in opinion, but not 
because we had ever arranged it between us. Be assured I 
never did or said anything maliciously against the statute, but 
it may be that this has been maliciously reported to the king.' 

" Then they ordered an usher to summon twelve men, accord- 

* " Huit paires de lettres." The Spanish says simply, " ocho letras". 
Erasmus, "octa paria". On the word "pair," see Note, p. 303. 

t The negative is omitted in the French, but is given in the Spanish 
and in Erasmus. 


ing to the custom of the country, and these articles were given 
to them that they might judge whether More had maliciously 
contravened the statute. After a quarter of an hour's absence, 
they declared him guilty of death, and sentence was pronounced 
by the chancellor, ' according to the tenourof the new law'.* 
" More then spoke as follows : ' Since I am condemned, 
and God knows how, I wish to speak freely of your statute, for 
the discharge of my conscience. For the seven years that I 
have studied the matter, I have not read in any approved 
doctor of the Church that a temporal lord could or ought to 
be head of the spirituality.'! The chancellor, interrupting 
him, said : 'What, More, you wish to be considered wiser and 
of better conscience than all the bishops and nobles of the 
realm ? ' To this More replied : ' My lord, for one bishop 
of your opinion I have a hundred saints of mine ; and for one 
parliament of yours, and God knows of what kind, I have all 
the General Councils for looo years; and for one kingdom I 
have France and all the kingdoms of Christendom '. Norfolk 
told him that now his malice was clear. More replied : ' What 
I say is necessary for discharge of my conscience and satisfac- 
tion of my soul, and to this I call God to witness, the sole 
Searcher of human hearts. I say further, that your statute is 
ill made, because you have sworn never to do anything against 
the Church, which, through all Christendom, is one and undi- 
vided, and you have no authority, without the common consent 
of all Christians, to make a law or Act of Parliament or Council 
against the union of Christendom. I know well that the reason 
why you have condemned me is because I have never been 
willing to consent to the king's second marriage ; but I hope, 
in the Divine goodness and mercy, that, as St. Paul and St. 

* " Selon la lettre de la noble loi " (De Castelnau). Apparently a mis- 
reading of " nouvelle ". The Spanish has, " segun la forma y tenor de 
la nueva ley " ; Erasmus, "juxta tenorem novas constitutionis ". 

t Quod laicus, aut, ut vocant, secularis, possit aut debeat esse caput 
status spiritualis aut ecclesiastici (Erasmus). 


Stephen, whom he persecuted, arc now friends m Paradise, so 
we, though differing in this world, shall be united in perfect 
charity in the other. I pray God to protect the king, and give 
him trood counsel.' " 

This account is accurate, but incomplete. The writer has 
omitted Sir Thomas More's answer to the evidence of Rich. 
The recital of the long dialogue, with its various suppositions, 
and More's rehearsal of the true conversation, were probably 
too complicated for the f'rench writer to follow. More's answer 
is recorded by Roper, who says that, though he was not present 
at the trial, he gives the words of More as reported to him by 
Sir Anthony St. Leger, by Mr. Chaywood, and Mr. Webb, and 
others, as correctly as his memory would serve. " If I were a 
man, my lords, that did not regard an oath, I need not stand 
in this place, at this time, as an accused person. And if this 
oath of yours, Mr. Rich, be true, then I pray that I may never 
see the face of God, which I would not say were it otherwise 
to win the whole world." He then recited the conversation in 
the Tower as it had really taken place, adding : " In good 
faith, Mr, Rich, I am sorrier for your perjury than for my own 
peril ; but neither I, nor any other man else, to my knowledge, 
ever took you to be a man of such credit, as that, in any matter 
of importance, I, or any other, would, at any time, vouchsafe to 
communicate with you. And I, as you know, of no small 
while, have been acquainted with you and your conversation, 
who have known you from your youth hitherto, for we long 
dwelled together in one parish. I am sorry you compel me so 
to say, that you were esteemed very light of your tongue, a 
great dicer, and of no commendable fame. And so in your 
house at the Temple, where hath been your chief bringing up, 
were you likewise accounted. 

" Can it, therefore, seem likely to your honourable lordships 
that I would, in so weighty a cause, so unadvisedly overshoot 
myself as to trust Mr. Rich, a man of me always reputed of 
little troth, so far above my sovereign lord the king or any of 


his noble councillors, that I would utter unto him the secrets ' 

of my conscience touching the king's supremacy, the special ] 

point at my hands so long sought for — a thing that I never did, 

nor never would, after the statute thereof made, reveal unto 

the king's Highness himself? Can this, in your judgment, my i 

lords, seem likely to be true ? j 

"And yet, if I had so done indeed, seeing it was spoken j 
but in secret, familiar talk, nothing affirming, and only in 
putting of cases, it cannot justly be taken to be spoken 
maliciously. I can never think, my lords, that so many worthy 
bishops, so many honourable personages as at the making of 
that law were assembled, ever meant to have any man punished 
by death in whom there could be found no malice, taking j 
7?ialiiia for ??mlevolentia, for if malitia be generally taken for 
sin, no man is there that can then excuse himself." 

Thereupon Rich caused Sir Richard Southwell and Mr. , 
Palmer to be sworn, but they both said that they were so en- | 
gaged in packing the books that they paid little attention to ] 
the conversation — a paltry compromise between fear and con- ' 

Roper also says that when Sir Thomas, after the verdict of 
the jury, was asked what he could allege against the sentence, 
he replied not only that supremacy in the Church could not 
belong to a layman, but that it "rightfully belonged to the 
See of Rome, as granted personally by Our Lord when on earth 
to St. Peter and his successors," and that, as the city of London 
could not make a law against the laws of the realm of England, 
so England could not make a law contrary to the general law 
of Christ's Catholic Church, and that the Magna Charta of 
England was that "the English Church should be free and 
enjoy all its right entire," and so the king had sworn at his 
coronation. He added that for England to refuse obedience ! 
to the See of Rome was the same as for a child to refuse | 
obedience to a parent. As St. Paul said to the Corinthians : { 
"" I have begotten you in Christ," so might St. Gregory say to | 


the English : " You are my children, because I have under 
Christ given to you everlasting salvation ". 

Lord Macaulay has called the state trials of those days 
"murder preceded by mummery". The trial was indeed an 
empty farce, since on 25th June, after the death of Blessed 
Fisher, the king had ordered the preachers to set forth to the 
people the treasons of the late Bishop of Rochester, and of 
Sir Thomas More ; joining them together though the latter was 
still untried.* 

But the martyr's earnest part was a spectacle to Ciod, to 
angels, and to men. 

In what follows not a word may be changed or omitted from 
Roper's narrative : " Now, after his arraignment departed he 
from the bar to the Tower again, led by Sir William Kingston, 
a tall, strong, and comely knight, constable of the Tower, and 
his very dear friend.t Who, when he had brought him from 
Westminster to the " Old Swan," towards the Tower, there, with 
a heavy heart, the tears running down his cheeks, bade him 
farewell. Sir Thomas More, seeing him so sorrowful, comforted 
him with as good words as he could, saying : " Good Mr. 
Kingston, trouble not yourself, but be of good cheer, for I will 
pray for you and my good lady your wife, that we may meet in 
heaven together, where we shall be merry for ever and ever". 
Soon after. Sir William Kingston, talking with me of Sir 
Thomas More, said : " In good faith, Mr. Roper, I was ashamed 
of myself that at my departing from your father I found my 
heart so feeble and his so strong, that he was fain to comfort 
me that should rather have comforted him ". 

"When Sir Thomas," continues Roper, "came from West- 
minster to the Tower, his daughter, my wife, desirous to see 

* Letters and Papers, viii. 921. 

t According to the official record it was Sir Edmund Walsingham, he 
lieutenant, who conducted the prisoner to Westminster. Roper cannot 
have been mistaken in saying that it was the constable, Sir William 
Kingston, who conducted him back to the Tower. 


her father, whom she thought she should never see in this 
world after, and also to have his final blessing, gave attend- 
ance about the Tower wharf, where she knew he should pass 
before he could enter into the Tower. There tarrying his 
coming, as soon as she saw him, after his blessing upon her 
knees reverently received, she hasting towards him, without 
consideration or care of herself, pressing in among the midst 
of the throng and company of the guard, that with halbards 
and bills went round about him, hastily ran to him, and there 
openly, in sight of them, embraced him, and took him about 
the neck and kissed him.* Who, well liking her most natural 
and dear daughterly affection towards him, gave her his 
fatherly blessing and many godly words of comfort besides. 
From whom after she was departed, she, not satisfied with 
the former sight of him, and like one that had forgotten 
herself, being all ravished with the entire love of her father, 
having respect neither to herself nor to the press of people 
that were about him, suddenly turned back again, ran to 
him as before, took him about the neck, and divers times 
kissed him lovingly, and at last, with a full and heavy heart, 
was fain to depart from him ; the beholding whereof was to 
many that were present so lamentable that it made them for 
very sorrow thereof to weep."! 

Roper, in his modesty, says nothing here about himself, yet 
it seems evident that he was a spectator of all these things, 
and was supporting his wife in her great trial. Stapleton 
informs us that John More, Sir Thomas's son, also came to 
receive his father's blessing on his knees, probably as he left 
Westminster Hall ; he adds also that Margaret Gigs and 
Dorothy Collig accompanied Margaret Roper, and ventured 
to follow her example in embracing the holy martyr. 

* Cresacre More mentions her cry : " Oh ! my father ! Oh ! my father !" 
t Erasmus, in the account he published under the name of Covrinus 

Nucerinus, gives the interview with Margaret with the same details, 

remarking that even the guards were melted to tear». 


The sentence passed on More was that he should die at Tyburn 
with all the infamous brutalities then inflicted on traitors. The 
time, hQwever, had not been fixed, and the decision of the 
king was awaited. Cresacre More, after Stapleton, tells us 
that he redoubled his penitential exercises, scourging himself^ 
and meditating on death, with a sheet around him, as if he 
were a corpse prepared for burial. He was condemned on 
the ist July, and executed on the 6th. "In the meantime," 
says Cresacre,* " came to him a light-headed courtier, talking 
of no serious matter, but only urging him this, that he would 
change his mind ; and being wearied with his importunity, he 
answered him, that he had changed it, who presently went 
and told the king thereof. And being by him commanded to 
know wherein his mind was changed. Sir Thomas rebuked 
him for his lightness in that he would tell the king every 
word that he spoke in jest, meaning that whereas he had 
purposed to be shaven, that he might seem to others as before 
he was wont, now he was fully minded that his beard should 
take such part as his head did ; which made the fellow blank 
and the king very angry." 

On Monday, the 5th July, he wrote with a charred stick 
this his last letter to Margaret, at the same time sending to 
her his hair shirt : — 

"Our Lord bless you, good daughter, and your good 
husband, and your little boy, and all yours, and all my 
children, and all my god-children and all our friends. Re- 
commend me when ye may to my good daughter Cecily^ 
whom I beseech Our Lord to comfort ; and I send her my 
blessing and to all her children, and pray her to pray for 
me. I send her a handkerchcr, and God comfort my good 
son, her husband. My good daughter Daunce hath the 
picture in parchment that you delivered me from my Lady 
Coniers, her name on the back. Show her that I heartily 

* Stapleton is his authority. 


pray her that you may send it in my name to her again, 
for a token from me to pray for me. 

" I Hke special well Dorothy Colly. I pray you be good 
unto her. I would wot whether this be she that you wrote me 
of. If not, yet I pray you be good to the other as you may in 
her affliction, and to my good daughter Jane Aleyn too. 
Give her, I pray you, some kind answer, for she sued hither to 
me this day to pray you be good to her. 

"I cumber you, good Margaret, much, but I would be sorry 
if it should be any longer than to-morrow, for it is St. Thomas's 
even, and the utas of St. Peter ; * and, therefore, to-morrow 
long I to go to God. It were a day very meet and convenient 
for me. 

" I never liked your manner towards me better than when 
you kissed me last ; for I love when daughterly love and dear 
charity hath no leisure to look to worldly courtesy. Farewell, 
my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you and all 
your friends, that we may merrily meet in heaven. I thank 
you for your great cost. I send now my good daughter 
Clement t her algorism stone, and I send her and my 
god.son and all hers God's blessing and mine. I pray you at 
time convenient recommend me to my good son John More. 
I liked well his natural fashion. Our Lord bless him and his 
good wife, my loving daughter, to whom I pray him to be good, 
as he hath great cause : and that, if the land of mine come to 
his hands, he break not my will concerning his sister Daunce. 
And the Lord bless Thomas and Austin, and all that they 
shall have." + 

In one of the last days of his life he wrote a Latin letter to 
his friend of forty years' standing, Antonio Bonvisi, an erudite 
and wealthy Italian merchant settled in London, who had sent 

* Utas, i.e., the octave day of the feast of St. Peter, 2gth June : the 
7th July is the Translation of the Relics of St. Thomas of Canterbury, 
t Margaret Gigs, who had married Dr. Clement. 
t English Works, p. 1457. 


both to him and to the Bishop of Rochester many little 
presents during their imprisonment. The letter is full of 
affection, and he bids him farewell till they meet again where 
there will be no need of letters, where no walls will keep them 
apart, and no jailer forbid their conversation, but where, with 
God the Father, and His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and 
the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from both, they will enjoy 
eternal bliss.* 

* English Works, p. 1455. 



If love be strong, hot, mighty, and fervent. 
There may no trouble, grief, or sorrow fall 

But that the lover would be well content 

All to endure, and think it eke too small, • 

Though it were death, so he might therewithal 

The joyful presence of that person get 

On whom he hath his heart and love yset. 

Thus should of God the lover be content 

Any distress or sorrow to endure, 
Rather than«be from God his love absent, 

And glad to die, so that he may be sure, 

By his departing hence, for to procure 
After this valley dark the heavenly light, 
And of His love the glorious blessed sight. 

THUS More had written in his early manhood. They 
were no empty, idle words. The thought of eternity, 
the desire of the vision of God, run through the 
texture of his whole life. Many a man, before and since, has 
met death bravely. Not only in the excitement of a field of 
battle, or the enthusiasm of a rescue from fire, but calmly in 
the execution of duty, as when the captain stands erect upon 
the sinking ship, while he sees the last boat depart with the 
women and children. All admiration to such deaths ! All 
honour to such men ! But it is not mere physical or moral 


courage we honour in the death of Blessed Thomas More. It is 
that his death was willing, though not wilful. One word of 
compliance and he would have been carried from the Tower to 
the palace of the king triumphantly, and little shame would 
have been his where all had yielded. But his death was not 
only willing, it was desired. All the martyrs have accepted 
death to be faithful to their God, but not all have desired 
death ; at least, they have not all, like More, desired it through- 
out their life. To him eternity had ever been the only reality, 
the only hope that makes life worth living. Pleasure, literary 
fame, wealth, the smiles of princes, had only proved to him 
how mean are all the goods this life can offer, and his soul 
thirsted for the strong (iod from the midst of weakness, for the 
living God from the midst of death : " As the hart panteth 
after the fountains of water, so my soul panteth after Thee, O 
God ; my soul hath thirsted after the strong living God ; when 
shall I come and appear before the face of God ? " * 

The details of More's glorious martyrdom have been made 
familiar to all by the narration of his son-in-law. Stapleton 
gathered a few additional circumstances from Margaret Clements 
and Dorothy Colly. t Shame caused the king to commute the 
sentence of drawing, hanging, mutilating and quartering at 
Tyburn into beheading on Tower Hill.:|: The day he chose 
was that which More had desired, the 6th July. Early in the 
morning of that day an old friend of More, Sir Thomas Pope, 
was sent by the king to announce to him that he must die that 
day before nine o'clock. Not one of the historians has a word 
about confession and communion ; but as we know from a 

* Psalm xli. 

t Stapleton's history has been very literally followed by Cresacre More. 

* Cresacre says that when this royal clemency was made known to 
More, he answered: "God forbid the king should use any more such 
mercy unto any of my friends, and God bless all my posterity from such 
pardons ". The words seem authentic, but I do not find the authority 
for them. 


letter of Chapuys' that a confessor was assigned to Fisher, and, 
as this was an ordinary concession before execution,* we may 
suppose that Sir Thomas had this consolation once more before 
he died, though probably not that of receiving the Viaticum of 
Our Lord's Body and Blood. More thanked Sir Thomas Pope 
for the news he brought, and expressed his gratitude to the 
king for placing him where he had had so much leisure to pre- 
pare for his last end. " And so, God help me, am I bounden 
to His Highness most of all, that it pleaseth him so shortly to 
rid me from the miseries of this wretched world ; and therefore 
will I not fail earnestly to pray for His Grace both here and also 
in the world to come." "The king's pleasure is farther," said 
Pope, " that at your execution you shall not use many words." 
" Mr. Pope," replied More, " you do well to give me warning 
of His Grace's pleasure, for, otherwise, at that time had I pur- 
posed to have spoken, but of no matter wherewith His Grace or 
any should have had cause to be offended. I beseech you, 
good Mr. Pope, to be a mean to His Highness that my daughter 
Margaret may be at my burial." " The king is content already," 
replied Pope, " that your wife and children and other friends 
shall have liberty to be present thereat." "Oh, how umch be- 
holding, then, am I unto His Grace, that unto my poor burial 
vouchsafeth to have so gracious consideration." Sir Thomas 
Pope could not restrain his tears, but the martyr comforted him 
with his usual words about a happy meeting in heaven.t 

His friend Bonvisi had sent to him a handsome dress of 
camelot (a kind of silk) to wear at his execution. J The lieu- 
lenant advised him to take it off, saying that he who should 
have it after his death — for it was the perquisite of the heads- 
man — was but a rascal. " What ! Mr. Lieutenant," replied 

* ''• Whom the protector bade speed and shrive him apace, for, by St. 
Paul," quoth he, " I will not to dinner till I see thy head off" (More's 

t The above is from Roper. 

J Stapleton. 


More, ''shall 1 account him a rascal that shall do me this day 
so singular a benefit? \\'ere it cloth of gold I should think it 
well bestowed on him, as St. Cyprian did who gave his execu- 
tioner thirty pieces of gold." He yielded, however, to the 
insistance of the lieutenant; but gave a gold angel to the 
headsman on the scaffold, and he had before asked his son to 
befriend him in any way he could.* 

Stapleton says that Margaret Clements once showed him a 
curiously wrought representation or statuette of Sir Thomas 
More going towards the scaffold. This she had made, or 
caused to be made, as the image of the martyr was present in 
her memory. His face was very pale and emaciated, he wore 
a poor dress of frieze, and carried a red cross in his hand. His 
beard was long, and his eyes were raised to heaven. 

Harpsfield says that as he left the Tower gate a woman asked 
him to notify that he had certain evidences of hers, that were 
delivered to him when he was chancellor, and that since he 
had been imprisoned she had been unable to recover them. 
"Good woman," he replied, "content thyself and take patience 
a little while, for the king is so good and gracious to me, that 
even within this half-hour he will disburden me of all worldly 
business, and help thee himself." t Another woman followed 
him crying that he had done her a great injury when he was 
chancellor. He replied calmly that he remembered her case 
well, and should still give the same decision.:}; The selfish 
women were exceptions. One good woman came from her 
house and offered him a cup of wine. He thanked her, l)ut 
refused it, saying that Christ at His Passion drank no wine, but 
gall and vinegar. " Last of all," says Cresacre, "there came a 
citizen of Winchester. This man had long laboured under a 
temptation of despair and suicide. Sir Thomas, when chan- 

* Stapleton, who says he gave the money himself. Roper says that 
he sent it. 

t Harpsfield's MS., from whom Stapleton relates this. 
:J: Cresacre. This is not in Harpsfield. 



cellor, had tried to console him, and had, by his prayers rather 
than his words, dehvered him for three years. After Sir Thomas's 
committal to prison, the old temptation returned more violently. 
But now, hearing that his friend was to be executed, he came 
to London, and ran towards him as he was led out to execution, 
desiring, with great earnestness, that he would help him by his 
prayers ; to whom Sir Thomas said : " Go and pray for me, and 
I will carefully pray for you ". He went away with confidence, 
and was troubled no more.* 

The scaffold, says Roper, was very unsteady, and putting his 
feet on the ladder, he said merrily to the lieutenant : " I pray 
thee see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for 
myself". "Then desired he all the people to pray for him 
and to bear witness with him that he should there suffer death 
in and for the faith of the Catholic Church." This is Roper's 
account. The French report, copied by Erasmus, adds that he 
exhorted the people to pray for the king that God would send 
him good counsel, and protested that he died his faithful ser- 
vant, but especially the servant of God. 

He then knelt down and, according to Stapleton, recited the 
psalm Miserere^ which had always been his favourite prayer.f 
The executioner as usual asked pardon, and he kissed him, 
saying cheerfully : " Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not 
afraid to do thy office. My neck is very short ; take heed, 
therefore, thou strike not awry for saving of thine honesty." J 
Ridebit in die iwvissivw. 

The block used at that period was a mere low log, so that 
the victim had to lie at full length on the scaffold with his face 

* Cresacre, from Stapleton. Ch. vi. 

f " The martyrs in their agony made no long prayers aloud, but one 
inch of such a prayer so prayed in that pain was worth a whole ell and 
more, even of their own prayers prayed at some other time " {English 
Works, p. 1 164). 

X Roper. 


downwards.* More had brought with him a handkerchief : he 
blindfolded himself, and placing his head upon the block, re- 
ceived the fatal but blessed blow that will surround his brow 
for ever with the martyr's aureole. f He had lived fifty-six 
years and five months. 

The story of More's life and death is told. The reader will 
make his own reflections. As I have tried to say only what 
was strictly necessary on contemporary history, so I will forbear 
to speak of the consequences of More's life and death on Eng- 
land, and on the Church. With the record, then, of his earthly 
relics I will make an end. Of the disposal of his sacred head 
and body his own son-in-law says nothing, and Archdeacon 
Harpsfield, who could have learned every detail from Roper, 
and who wrote freely in the days of Mary, omitting all mention 
of the body, merely gives the well-known fact that the head was 
placed on London Bridge, and tells us nothing of its fate. The 
account given by Stapleton is as follows : " The head remained 
fixed on a stake on London Bridge for a month, when Margaret 
Roper bribed the man whose business it was to throw it into 
the river to give it to her ". Though it had been parboiled 
before being exposed (as Erasmus mentions, and as was the 
custom), yet it was easily recognised, not only by the absence of 
a tooth that he had lost before death, but because its appear- 
ance was almost as fair as during life. But the beard, which 
had been hoary before death, became of a reddish colour after- 
wards. Margaret had it preserved in spices, and kept it most 
reverently while she lived ; "and to this day," adds Stapleton, 
cautiously, " it is still preserved in her family '\X Even in the 

* Thus Blessed John Fisher was executed (see my Lift- of Fislur, 
2nd ed., App.). 

t Cresacre adds that, having his head on the block, he bade the execu- 
tioner stay until he had removed his beard, saying that it had committed 
no treason. This incident is not in Roper, Harpsfield, or Stapleton. 

X Et hodie adhuc apud aliquem suorum custoditur. 


next century Cresacre More thought it more prudent to say : 
" She buried it where she thought fittest ". Sir Richard Mori- 
son, on the contrary, writing in 1536 an answer to Cochlasus, 
who in a httle book had mentioned the removal of More's and 
Fisher's heads from the bridge, boldly denies such removal. 
" Come here," he says, "and you shall see both heads where 
they were placed, and still warning men by the spectacle not 
to conspire against the king or the laws of the kingdom." * 
Morison, a protege of Cromwell's, was seeking court favour, 
and had been set up to defend Henry against the execrations 
of Europe. He could not deny that the most venerable heads 
in England had been impaled on London Bridge. He thought 
it, therefore, best to pretend no shame and affirm relentless 
justice. His affirmations and denials are of little value. I 
prefer to believe the veracity of Stapleton, who says that Mar- 
garet was summoned before the Council for keeping her father's 
head as a relic, as well as his books and writings. She replied 
that she had procured her father's head for burial that it might 
not be the food of fishes ; and that she had, with the exception 
of his printed books, few of his writings but familiar letters, 
which she earnestly begged that she might keep for her solace. 
Powerful men at court befriended her, and she was no more 
molested. " Carrying her love beyond the grave," writes Sir 
James Mackintosh, " she desired that the head might be buried 
with her when she died. The remains of this precious relic 
are said to have been since observed in the burial place, lying 
on what had been her bosom." Tennyson's words will occur 
to the mind : — 

Morn broaden'd on the borders of the dark 
Ere I saw her, who clasped in her last trance 
Her murder'd father's head, f 

This legend is so beautiful that it is almost cruel to question 
it. It is not, however, ancient, and it seems impossible to 

* Apomaxis calumniarum, etc., f. 93, b. 
■\- A Drcdiii of Fair Women. 



reconcile it with facts. The vault of the Ropers is in St. Dunslan's 
Church, Canterbury, and it is there that Margaret, with her 
father's head, is supposed to lie. Indeed, a leaden vessel, such 
as would contain a head, was seen in the Roper vault as late as 
1835, though it was not lying in or on a coffin, but placed on 
a ledge behind an iron grating. That may, indeed, be the 
head of Blessed Thomas, and Margaret may, in obedience to 
the Council, have placed it where she hoped it would be safe. 
She died in 1544, nine years after her father, and thirty-four 
before her husband, liut, though she has a monumental 
inscription at St. Dunstan's, she was buried at Chelsea; and 
William Roper, her husband, who died 4th January, 1578, 
directs in his will that his body be placed with that of his wife 
and children, at Chelsea, Co. Middlesex " in the vault with 
the body of my dearly beloved wife (whose soul Our Lord 
pardon), where my father-in-law, Sir Thomas More (whose 
soul Jesus bless), did mind to be buried". Margaret, it seems, 
had chosen to be buried with her mother, whom More had 
already placed in the family vault. For some reason Roper's 
injunction was not carried out, and he lies at St. Dunstan's, 

The headless body of More suffered no such outrages as 
were offered, by the express orders of the king, to that of Fisher. 
No doubt he wished to revenge on the cardinal what he called 
the wrongs done him by the Pope. He had no such reason 
for insulting More. l»y the governor's permission, then, the 
body was laid in the chapel of St. I^eter ad \'incula in the 
Tower. This is expressly stated by Stapleton, who had all the 
details from Margaret Clements and Dorothy Harris. 
two women assisted Margaret Roper in the burial. They used 
to relate that, when they came to take up the body they had all 
forgotten the winding sheet, and had brought no money with 
them, and, being far from their homes, had no credit in that 

* See Roper Pedigree at Coll. /\rms (MS. Norfolk, xii. p. 2). Informa- 
tion kindly communicated by E. Bellasis, Esq., Lancaster Herald. 


quarter. Mrs. Harris, however, went to a draper's shop, and 
agreeing on the price, made as though she would look for 
money in her purse, and then try whether they would trust her ; 
and to her great surprise she found the exact sum they had 
agreed on.* 

In the British Museum there is a Latin Life of Blessed John 
Fisher^ of which the greater part has been consumed by fire, 
and most of the remnant is illegible. But the following 
passage is easy to decipher.t After stating that Fisher's body 
remained for seven years in All Hallows' Churchyard, on Tower 
Hill, visited and venerated especially by foreigners, the writer 
continues : "The martyr's enemies were so angry at the con- 
course, that they had the body exhumed and carried to the 
Tower, and with the relics of Thomas More cast into an 
obscure place. But certain persons who have taken note of 
events have left in writing, that the bodies of these holy men 
did not even rest there ; but that, when the heat of persecution 
somewhat abated, they were devoutly carried to the village of 
Chelsea, where More had resided, and are there kept to this 
day entombed in a new monument which he had prepared for 
himself when he was in (royal) favour. But while I was en- 
deavouring to discover from common report or from written 
records the real place where this precious treasure is hidden, 
I was hindered. May God grant that some day, when 
religion revives and peace is restored to the Church, it may be 
known to the faithful where are those longed-for relics." All 
this is very perplexing. The life is anonymous, but bears 
intrinsic evidence of having been written in the time of Queen 
Mary. How could there be any difficulty in discovering the 
truth of the removal when Roper was still alive and so many of 
More's grandchildren ? It would seem that the writer was just 

* This story is related by Stapleton and by Sander. Burnet reproaches 
Sander with inventing it. He merely, like Stapleton, told what he heard 
on the best authority. 

t Arundel MS. 152, f. 233. 


To/ac: p. 43^- 


making his inquiries when the death of Queen Mary drove him 
into exile and interrupted all communication with the family. 
Stapleton, who wTote in 1588, says nothing of this removal to 

Cresacre More, who had no doubt all the family traditions, 
writes that " the body was buried in the chapel of St. Peter, in 
the l^elfry, or as some say, as one entereth into the vestry, near 
unto the body of the holy martyr Bishop Fisher, who being put 
to death just a fortnight before, had small respect done unto 
him all this while". This last phrase must point to the shame- 
ful outrages perpetrated on the body of Blessed Fisher, and 
imply that it was removed from All Hallows to the Tower, not 
seven years, but one fortnight after its burial. Cresacre's 
knowledge of Fisher's history may have been imperfect, or 
Margaret may really have got leave to take up the bishop's 
remains and lay them with her father's. Cresacre gives no 
hint of subsequent removal. He could scarcely have visited 
the chapel of St. Peter, for there was no vestry in the entrance 
to which the body could have been laid. The spot pointed 
out at present is near the entrance to the small bell-tower ; and 
if that was the resting-place of the holy ashes, they will not 
have been removed to the vaults, as was the case with those in 
the nave, when the church was repaired in i876.t 

Near the entrance door at the west end has been recently 

placed a memorial tablet with the following inscription : — 

*' List of remarkable persons buried in this chapel : 

" I. (ierald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, - i534- 

"■2. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, - i535- 

''3. Sir Thomas More, i535- 

* Weever and others affirm the removal of More's body to Chelsea, 
but they give no authority. The Rev. J. Morris, S.J., argues in favour of 
the removal in the Month for Feb., 1891. Perhaps the vauh at Chelsea 
may be some day opened, and the truth revealed. As yet the evidence 
to me seems in favour of the Tower. 

•y On this removal see Tlw Chapd in the Tower, by Mr. C. Doyne Bell. 


"4. George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, - 1536. 

"5. Queen Anne Boleyn, - - _ - 1536. 

"6. Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, - 1540. 

" 7. Margaret of Clarence, Countess of 

Salisbury, - - - - - 1541," 

etc. ; in all, 34, ending : 

"34. Simon, Lord Eraser of Lovat, - - i747-''' 
These lines throw open many a dark and painful page of 
I'nglish history, and they remind us of More's words to Tindale : 
that violent death may come to saint or sinner, to martyr or 
heretic, to patriot or traitor. They suggest bitter reflections on 
More's false friends and open enemies — on Cromwell, Anne 
Boleyn, and Henry VUL But I refrain. I have said as little 
of these as I could, and I will not conclude a Life of Blessed 
More by reproaches of those for whom he prayed with his last 
breath. A more fitting termination will be found in his own 
words, written in the Tower in the prospect of the block : — 

" To this great glory of heaven can there no man come 
headless. Our Head is Christ, and, therefore, to Him must 
we be joined, and as members of His must we follow Him, if 
we will come thither. ' Know ye not that Christ must suffer 
passion and l)y that way enter into the kingdom ? ' Who can 
for very shame desire to enter into His kingdom of Christ 
with ease, when He Himself entered not into His own without 
])ain ? " * 

* Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, Bk. iii. ch. 26. 

A P P E N D I X A. 


FATHER THOMAS MORE, SJ., the last English pro- 
vincial of the old Society, was the last male heir of the 
martyr. He died in 1795, ^^^ through him the family 
heirlooms of various relics of his blessed ancestor came to 
Stonyhurst College. Father More had a sister, who was 
superioress of the English Canonesses of St. Augustine at 
Bruges, and he gave her the only relic of the body of the 
martyr that is known to exist — excepting, of course, the head. 
Half of the Bruges relic is now, by the kindness of a successor 
of Reverend Mother More, at Manresa, Roehampton. The 
existence of this relic, descending in the family, speaks for the 
existence of a family tradition that the tomb of Blessed Thomas 
had been opened some time after the martyrdom."* 

A large collection of interesting relics of Blessed Thomas is 
preserved by the Jesuit fathers in their college of Stonyhurst. 
The following description is from the Stojiyhurst Magazine of 
Fei)ruary, 1887 : — 

I. The Hat. I'V. Boone, S.J., Superior of the Brussels 
Residence, April 25, 1835, attests that he received it from 
Mile. Ther^se Ciaillard the day before her death, to be given 
to the English Jesuits. It was given to her, June 24, 1809, 
by Philippe de la Tour, parish priest of SS. Michael and 

* Rev. J. Morris, S.J., in the Month, Feb., 1S91. 


Gudule, in Brussels. He took it, in the presence of Fr. Perez, 
S.J., of Alost, from the Brussels College Library at the Sup- 
pression. It was received by Fr. Otho Zylius, the librarian of 
the College at Brussels, January 15, 1654, given by Fr. Charles 
de Breuil, S.J-, rector of the College of Roermond in Holland, 
by leave of Fr. John Baptist Engelgrave, S.J., the provincial. 
It had been given to that College by Godfrey Gilekens, chan- 
cellor of the supreme court in Guelderland, who had it for 
many years, and on the day on which the holy martyr died 
(July 6) used always to wear it in court. 

2. The Sodality Crucifix. Its inscription in Greek says 
that " this is a relic of St. Thomas the Apostle ". Inside the 
cross now are bits of half-decayed paper, on which is written 
"St. Charles Borromeus." with some very small relics. There 
is also a bit of wood in a separate paper without any writing. 
The following is copied from the original document : — 

" I, Thomas More, of the Society of Jesus, and last of the 
family of Sir Thomas More, lord chancellor of England, with 
the leave and approbation of R. F. Philip Carteret, provincial, 
do give unto the Sodality of our Blessed Lady in the English 
College at St. Omer's, this large gold cross, formerly belonging 
unto, and us'd or wore by Sir Thomas More himself, and since 
his time kept with great care in our family. 

" Witness my hand, 29th June, 1755. 
" Thos. More. 
" Philip Carteret, Provincial." 

In a co\er, on which is written: " Thomae More Donum et 
authenticu Testimonium de cruce aurea Ven. Thomae Mori 
Anglise Cancellarii pro fide passi sub Henrico 8vo ". 

3. Silver Seal of Blessed Thomas More when sub-treasurer. 
Its handle is d. fleur-de-lys. The arms are quarterly: ist and 
4th, a chevron engrailed between three cocks (More) ; and 2nd 
and 4th, a chevron between three unicorns' heads couped. 

The crest is a Moor's head. The inscription round the seal 


is "Sigillu T. More Equitis Aurati Subthesauraii Angl." With 
this was kept another seal, the handle of which consists of two 
crucifixes, back to back. The seal, engraved on a cornelian, 
has the inscription, " Christiario CatJiolico /v*." The arms are 
quarterly : ist and 4th, a chevroji engrailed between three cocks 
(More) ; 2nd and 4th, three lions rampant (Cresacre). I'he 
heiress of the Cresacres married Sir Thomas More's only son, 
John, who would have impaled his wife's arms, or rather, as she 
was an heiress, borne them on an escutcheon of pretence. 
The earliest More, therefore, to whom the seal can have be- 
longed is Sir Thomas' grandson, Thomas, who was born in 
1531, and died in 1606. The seal is now in the Museum. 

4. The George : so-called because on its obverse it has, 
beautifully worked in gold and enamel, St. George and the 
Dragon. Sir Thomas was not a Knight of the (iarter, so that 
this is not the decoration of that Order, commonly called a 
Cxeorge. On the reverse is Our Blessed Lord sitting on the 
tomb stripped and surrounded by emblems of the Passion. 
The inscription round the rim is, " O passi graviora dabit his 
quoque finem ". Mr. Edmund Waterton says that when the 
George was exhibited at the Society of Antiquaries and at the 
Fine Art Exhibition of 1862, the niiuinnou value put upon it 
was ^1000. 

5. Cameo — the head of the Blessed \'irgin — "formerly be- 
longing to Sir T. More " . It is thus entered in the old 
catalogue of the Stonyhurst Museum. 

6. " Cap of Sir T. More." So entered in the same cata- 
logue, which adds : " I'he five preceding articles [the two seals, 
the George, the cameo, and the cap] were all received from 
Father T. More, Prov. Angl., S.J., last descendant of the 
family ". 

7. PouNCET Box, a shell with a silver lid, nearly plain. 'I'he 
catalogue says : " Presented by Revd. James Parker ". This 
gives us the authorship of the following note : " This box was 
given to Revd. Mr. Coomb by Mrs. Dalton, sister of Revd. T. 


More, my provincial, at ye dissolution of ye Society by Pope 
Ganganelli, who had received it from his father as a special 
gift, having been used by his ancestor, Sir T. More, lord 
chancellor of England, beheaded in ye reigning year [sic] of 
King Henry VI 1 1. LP. " Father James Parker died at 
Liverpool, October 29, 1822, <:st 75. 

8. A silver reliquary with crystal on both sides, containing a 
Bone. The inscription round the rim is " Reliquiae Thomse 
]\Iori Mar. Ang. Chan." This is entered in the catalogue : 
^' 296. Relick of Sir T. More," and in the new catalogue this 
entry is given, under the date 1826, as the gift of John Gage, 
Esq. He probably also gave the next entry in the old cata- 
logue, viz. : — 

9. " 298. A Gold Cross which belonged to Sir T. More." 
It is a small but beautifully enamelled crucifix. It is worth 
noticing that the gold cord attached to it is the same as that 
attached to the cornelian Cresacre seal. It is singular that the 
inscription, "Presented by John Gage, Esq.," on the glass case 
in which the relics have been kept in the Museum should have 
attril)uted the gift of all to Mr. Gage, while he appears to have 
given at the most two out of the ten articles the case contained 
— the tenth being the Cresacre seal, still in the Museum. 

Mgr. Eyston of East Hendred, in Berkshire, possesses the can 
or cup commonly used by More. " It is a pint cup, with a lid 
and handle made of pieces of oak, and bound together by rings 
of silver, and narrower at the top than at the bottom. It is 
.still perfect" (Wornum : Holbein, p. 203). 

The Augustinian Canonesses of Abbots' Leigh, near Newton 
Abbot, in Devonshire, possess the hair shirt worn by More, 
and sent to his daughter Margaret the day before his martyrdom. 
It was brought to them by the daughter of Margaret Clements, 
the adopted child of Sir Thomas. 

Letters in the autograph of Sir Thomas may still be seen in 
the British Museum. 



THERE has been a great readiness on the part of Enghsh- 
men to render justice and honour to tlie memory of Sir 
Thomas More. It would be easy to fill a long and 
interesting chapter with the panegyrics that have been pro- 
nounced upon him. Yet England has been very slow to testify 
her veneration by any visible memorial. Surely London, at 
least, ought long ago, by a public act, to have made reparation 
to her noblest citizen, ^'et it was only within the last few years 
that the devotion and generosity of a Catholic gentleman, 
George Arnold, Esq., of Milton Hall, Gravesend, erected the first 
statue. This stands over a doorway of a corner house in Carey 
Street, Chancery Lane. In building these chambers and shops, 
Mr. Arnold arranged with the benchers of Lincoln's Inn to 
make a passage through to New Square, called More's Passage. 
On a slab beneath the statue is the following inscription : — 
" Sir Thom.\s More, Knight, 
Some time Lord High Chancellor 
of England ; 
Martyred 6th July, 1535. 
The Faithful Servant 
Both of God and the King." 
The houses, as well as the statue, were designed by George 
Sherrin, Esq., architect, and are engraved in the British 
Architect for 13th September, 1889. 




OWE the following notes to the courtesy of E. Bellasis, Esq., 
Lancaster Herald : — 

I. Sir John More. 

The MS. in College of Arms (Vincent, iii. p. 370), notes that 
Sir John More's grandfather More married Joanna, daughter of 
John Lelcestre. It also states that Sir John had two brothers, 
Richard and Christopher, the latter of whom was married. 

Sir John's first wife is called Alice, daughter of Han- 
combe of Hancombe, Co. Bedford. 

This Latin pedigree ends with the three children of 
Christopher Cresacre More, who was born 3rd July, 1572. 

This MS. also mentions Sir John's second wife as Alice, 
relict of Clarke, and notes that she had by her first husband a 
daughter, Agnes Clarke. 

The date of this MS. is probably ^/r^t? 1621-6, and it consists 
of imperfect copies of Glover's Visitation, 1584, and of St. 
George's Visitation in 16 12, with many additions and pedigrees 
from Dodsworth's deeds, and other genealogies and arms not 
in the originals, and supposed to have been collected by 

The MS. (Coll. Arms, xlvii. D. xiv. p. 333) describes Sir 
John More's second wife as Alice, daughter of John and sister 
of Sir Christopher More of Losely, Surrey. 


II. The Martyr's First Wife. 

The MS. (Vincent, cxxiv. p. 291) has this entry in the Colt 
pedigree: " Jana, nupta Thomce Moore miUti, Cancellario 
Anghoe " ; and she appears as the daughter of John Colt or 
Cowlt of Essex by his wife Jane, daughter of Sir John Elring- 
ton of Middlesex, knight. She had two brothers — Sir George 
Colt of Candish, Suffolk, knight, and Thomas Colt^and four 
sisters. All six married. 

III. Arms. 

A pedigree of four descents and arms of Colt appear in (Coll. 
Arms) MS. D. xi. p. 32''. The descents begin with Jane 
More's father, John Colt, and the arms are given thus : " argent 
a fess between 3 colts courant sable ". 

In MS. (Coll. Arms) E.D.N. Ivi. p. 148, being the grants 
by Sir Christopher Barker (Norroy, 1536 ; Garter, 1536-50) and 
other kings of arms in trick, occurs this entry : " Sir Tho. Moore 
Lord Chancellor T. H. 8 ". The trick below this is : " 4ly, ist, 
and 4th, are a chevron engrailed between 3 moorcocks sable ; 
2nd and 3rd argent on a chevron between 3 unicorns' heads, 
erased sable (not blazoned), 3 roundles (not blazoned) ". 

How the martyr quarters this unicorn coat is not shown in 
the pedigrees. The coat is apparently intended for that of 
Killingbeck, an old family of Chapel-Allerton in Yorkshire, 
whom the heralds Hower, in 1584-5, and Dugdale, in 1665 
duly visited; /.(?., "argent on a chevron sable between 3 uni- 
corns' heads (couped, Flower ; erased, Dugdale)^ azure, 3 
annulets or ". 

No crest given, but it is described officially '\n i-jcf-j as "a 
Moor's bust is a profile proper, from the ear two annulets con- 
joined, or, shirt also proper '. 



BLESSED Thomas More was fond of astronomy. Tt is 
needless to say that he held the Ptolemaic or geocentric 
system, in which the earth is the centre of all things and 
various spheres revolve around it. The bookmark of his brother- 
in-law, John Rastell, which adorns the title pages of the first 
edition of More's works, illustrates this system. In the lower 
part are four concentric hemispheres. The smallest and central 
one — by hills, castles and trees upon it — is intended to represent 
the earth. Round this is another, by points or fine lines repre- 
senting the atmosphere. Above this another, being the region 
of clouds, and higher still the region of fire. At the top of the 
plate is the bust of God the Father and under it the word 
Fiat ; and the space above the spheres is dotted over with sun, 
moon and stars. In the midst of these a merman and mer- 
maid hold a tablet with the initials "J. R." Royal coats of 
arms fill up the top corners. 

In one of Sir Thomas's controversial works an ignorant 
objection to the Divine presence in the Church is amusingly 
compared to a popular objection to the laws of gravitation. 
The illustration is correct, though More's astronomical system 
was incomplete. If the gentlewoman mentioned was Lady 
More, as seems pretty certain, the story illustrates More's 
domestic sphere as well as the heavenly spheres. Sir Thomas 
had been arguing that because the Church was before the sects. 


and the sects came out from the Church; therefore, the Church is 
right and the sects wrong. Tindale mocked at this argument. 
It would prove, he said, that the synagogue was right, and Our 
Lord and His Apostles wrong. Sir Thomas answers that the 
cases are not similar unless the synagogue ha^ the promise and 
gift of perpetuity on earth like the Church. Tindale's retort 
reminds him of a reply made by a gentlewoman to her husband. 
He was trying to teach her the treatise of the sphere, i.e.^ the 
system of the universe. He began at the earth, and to make 
her perceive that the "earth hangeth in the midst of the world 
(the universe) by its own weight, 'you must,' he said, 'mark well 
this, that in the universe higher and lower mean simply outer 
and inner ; so that of the whole world, earth, water, air, and 
all the spheres above, being each in a round compass over the 
other, the earth lieth in the very midst, and is the innermost 
place of the universe. Being, therefore, in the lowest place, its 
own weight keeps it there, because no heavy thing can of itself 
ascend upwards, and to fall out of its place on any side would 
be to fall from a lower place to a higher. 

" ' Imagine, therefore, that a hole were bored through the earth 
and a millstone thrown down here on this side from our feet ; 
it would finally remain in the centre of the earth. It could not 
go farther, for then it would be falling outwards or upwards.' 

" Now while he was telling her this tale, she nothing went 
about to consider his words, but as she was wont in all other 
things, studied all the while nothing else but what she might 
say to the contrary. And when he had, with much work and 
oft interrupting, brought at last his tale to an end : ' Well,' 
quoth she, as Tindale saith to me, ' I will argue like and make 
you a like sample. My maid hath yonder a spinning wheel, or 
else, because all your reason resteth in the roundness of the 
world : come hither, thou girl ; take out thy spindle and bring 
me hither the whorl. Lo, sir, ye make imaginations, I cannot 
tell you what. But here is a whorl, and it is round as the world 
is, and we shall not need imagine a hole bored through, for it 



hath a hole bored through indeed. But yet, because ye go by 
imaginations, I will imagine you. Imagine me now that this 
whorl were ten mile thick on every side, and this hole through 
it still, and so great that a millstone might well go through it. 
Now, if the whorl stood at one end and a millstone were thrown 
in alone at the other end, would it go no farther than the 
midst, trow you ? By God, if one threw in a stone no bigger 
than an egg, I ween if ye stood at the nether end of the hole 
five mile beneath the midst, it would give you a pat upon the 
pate that it would make you claw your head, and yet should 
ye feel none itch at all.' 

" It were too long to tell you all their disputations, for words 
would she none have lacked, though they should have disputed 
the space of seven years. Her husband was fain to put up 
his sphere and leave his wife her whorl, and fall in talking of 
some other matter. 

" Now playeth Tindale even the same part with me, and 
maketh an argument and a sample of the synagogue, as like to 
the Church of Christ for the point we speak of as the whorl 
was like the world, etc." * 

* English Works, p. 628. 



I. 'T^HE last heir male of Sir Thomas More was Father 
J[ Thomas More, S.J. He was born in 1722, and died 
in 1795. ^^ ^^^ time of the suppression of the 
Society in 1773 he was English provincial. 

2. The last male descendant of William and Margaret Roper 
was Edward, who died unmarried at Almanza, in Spain, in 1707, 
or January, 1708. His sister Elizabeth married Charles Hen- 
shaw. They had four children — a son, who died unmarried, and 
three daughters, co-heiresses, who were married, viz., Susanna, 
to Sir Rowland Wynne of Nostell, from whom the present Lord 
St. Oswald descends ; Elizabeth, to Sir Edward Bering of Sur- 
render Dering, ancestor of the present baronet ; and Catherine, 
who married Sir William Strickland, but left no children. 

3. As Anne Roper, Margaret's descendant in the fourth 
degree, married Sir Philip Constable of Everingham, the 
ancestor of the present Lord Herries, many Catholic families, 
through their relationship with the Constable-Maxwells, can 
thus claim descent from Blessed Thomas, through his daughter 

4. The direct representative of Blessed Thomas More is 
Charles Eyston, Esq., of East Hendred, who is descended 
through the Metcalfes from Bridget More. She had a brother, 
Thomas (mentioned above in No. i), and a sister, who was 
prioress of the Augustinian Canonesses at Bruges. Bridget 
married, secondly, John Dalton, Esq., of Thurnham. 


5, In the preceding generation, Mary More married Charles 
Waterton, Esq., of Walton Hall, whose descendant is now of 
Deeping Waterton. 

6. There are probably innumerable other descendants of 
Blessed Thomas by the various female lines. 

(Information given me by Rev. J. Morris, S.J., F.S.A.) 




Feb. 7. 
















April 21 




Sept. 3. 




May 12. 



May 1. 






or 1516). 







Birth, 2 

With Cardinal Morton, ..... 7 

Sent to Oxford, . . . . . . • . 9 

At New Inn, London, ..... 37 

At Lincoln's Lin, ..... 20, 37 

Makes the acquaintance of Erasmus, ... 38 

Resides in or near Charterhouse (four years), . 31 

Called to the Bar, 22 

Lectures, 22 

Member of Parliament. .... 37, 42 

Marries Jane Colt, 53 

Daughter Margaret born, ..... 55 

Daughter Elizabeth born, 146 

Daughter Cecilia born, 147 

Visit to Louvain and Paris, .... 44 

Accession of Henry VIIL, 

Son John born, ....... 147 

Death of his wife Jane, ..... 55 

Made Under-sheriff of London, .... 65 

Marries Alice Middleton, 55 

Reader in Lincoln's Inn, ..... 65 

Embassy to Flanders, ..... 67 

Reader (second time), ..... 65 

Evil May-day riot, ...... 72 

John More becomes Judge, .... 4 

Sweating Sickness, ...... 74 

Embassy to Calais, .■•••• 75 

Privy Councillor, ...... 165 

Master of Requests, Secretary, .... 166 

.\t Calais, Field of Cloth of Gold, . . . 182 

Knighted, made Under-Treasurer, . . . 188 




„ April. 
1525. July. 
1527. July. 

1529. July. 

„ Oct. 25. 
„ Nov. 3. 

1530. Dec. 

1 53 1. P'eb. II. 

,, March 30. 

1532. May 16. 
1533- June i. 
1534. Feb. I. 

„ March 6. 

,, March 30. 

„ April 13. 

„ May I. 

„ Nov. 
>> >» i^' 

1535- April 30. 

„ May 4. 

,, June ig. 
,, 22. 

„ July I. 
.. ,, 6. 

Embassy to Bruges and Calais, . 

Moves to Chelsea, 

Speaker of House of Commons, 

Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster, 

Embassy to France, . 

Embassy to Cambrai, 

Lord High Chancellor, 

Opens Long Parliament, 

Sir John More Dies, . 

The Clergy acknowledge Henry Supreme Head 

" as far as God's law permits," 
More gives King's message to both Houses 
Resigns the Great Seal, 
Absent from Anne Boleyn's Coronation, 
Letter rebutting suspicions, 
Examination by Council, 
Act of Succession. .... 

Oath refused, 

Again refused, ..... 
x\ttainted of Misprision of Treason, . 
Act of Supremacy, .... 

Before Council, 

Martyrdom of Carthusians and others, 
Martyrdom of other Carthusians, 
Martyrdom of Blessed John Fisher, . 


Martyrdom of Blessed Thomas More, aged 57, 














Early Verses, ...... 14, 430 

Ode on Death of Elizabeth of York, ... 15 
Translation and Imitation of Lucian, . . 80 

(Erasmus writes Praise of Fully in More's house), 83 
Odes on Accession and Marriage of Henry 

VIII., Ill, 188 

Life of Pico dclla Mirandula, .... 78 
Austerities, 27. — Monastic Life, 27. — Savonarola, 

28. — Submission to Church, 81. — Love of 

God, 63. 
Life of Richard III., ...... 79 





1516. Utopia, loi- 

Extracts. Card. Morton, 7. — Worship, 103-106. — Female 
Priests. 105. — Toleration. 256. — Privy 
Councillors, 154-164. — Treaty-making, 203. 
— Precious Metals, 183. 

Pamphlet-Letter to Dorpius 

Extracts. English Universities, 44. — Contentious Theolo- 
gian, go. — Holy Scripture, 92. — True Theo- 
logy, 93. 
Letter to University of Oxford, .... 

Epigrams, ........ 

Specimens. "Confession of Sailors, 49. — His First Love, 53. — 
Choice of Wife, 54. — F"riends and Brothers, 
no. — God's Prison, 392. — To his Children, 

1520. Pamphlet- Letter to Brixius, .... 

,, Pamphlet-Letter to a Monk, .... 

Extracts. Censoriousness, 95. — Foolish Preachers. 96. — 
Self-love, 100. 

1522. Four Last Tilings, ...... 

Extracts. Thought of Death, 386. — Pompous Funerals, 

387. — Place of Execution, 387. — Life a 
Play, 388.— Duke of Buckingham, 389.— 
God's Prisoners, 390. 

1523. Answer to Luther, ..... 209, 
Extracts. Specimens of his Reasoning, 212-215. — Fruits of 

his Teaching, 215. — Scripture without its 
True Sense, 310. — Primacy of Holy See, 
1525. Pamphlet-Letter against Pomeranus, . 

1528. Dialogue, " (^uoth He, and Quoth I," 
Extracts. Reliquaries of Gold, 184. — Frequenting Church, 

141. — Friar Tuck and Maid Marion, 262. — 
Light Style, 283.— Holy Scripture, 307, 308. 
— Scrupulosity, 302. — Censuring the Clergy, 
32.— Miracles, 337. 

1529. Supplication of Souls, ..... 
Extracts. Jokes, 285. — Parliament, 286.— Funeral pomp, 

287. — Communism, 289. 
1531. Confutation of Timlale, ..... 














Extyacls. The Movia of Erasmus, S7, 208. — Female 
priests, 105. — Violent death, 291. — Pope's 
authority, 301. — Geocentric system, 448. — 
Precepts of Church, 140, 

1532. Letter against P'rith, ...... 292 

T-5?>^- Apology, . . 293 

Extracts. Evil May-day, 73. — A fable, 36. — Treatment of 
bad priests, 32. — Apathy of Catholics, 275. — 
Prolixity, 293. — Personalities, 294-8. — Treat- 
ment of heretics, 255, 264, 266, 270. — 
Convocation, 235.— Light Style, 283. 

1533. Debellation of Salciii (iiid Bizaiicc, ' . . . 298 

1533. Answer to Supper of the Lord, .... 299 

1534. Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, . . 394 
Extracts. Advice to great men in prosperity, 205. — Abuse 

of Christ's Name, 305. — Merry talk, 395. — 
God's prison, 392. — Lady More's visit to 
Tower, 366. — No martyr headless, 440. 

1535. On the Passion, ....... 396 

Extract. Fear not sinful, 352. 

1535. Death for Faith, 397 


General remarks, ........ 97-89, 181 

To Colet, 46. —To Ruthal, \-.^To Gunnell, on Edu- 
cation of Women, 127. — To Lady More, on a fire, 
118. — To his children, 132, 133. — To Dorpius, 94. — 
lo Budee, 185. — To Wolsey, 194. — To Peter Giles, 
109. — To Maid of Kent, 328. — To Bonvisi, 428, — To 
Leader, 379.— To Dr. Wilson, 38. — To Lady Alington, 
370.— To the King, 336. 

To Margaret — On her studies, 135, 136 ; on his refusal of 
oath, 353 ; on her solicitations, 370, 374 ; blessings, 
378 ; on his examinations, 400, 405 ; last words, 427. 

To Cromwell — On supposed libel, 318 ; on Maid of Kent, 
323, 335 ; on divorce question, 225 ; on Pope's primacy, 

To Erasmus — On Flemish embassy, 68 ; on sweating sick- 
ness, 75 ; on residence at Calais, 76 ; on changed times, 
86, 87 ; sarcastic, 88 ; on resignation of Chancellorship, 
245 ; on his epitaph, 248 ; on zeal against Luther, 277. 



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